Monday, July 26, 2010

HOF's Future: Who's in, Who's out (Offensive Edition)

With the 2010 Hall of Fame induction coming up in August (I will post an overview on the inductees later on), I thought this was a good time to take a look at the careers of current NFL players and decide who are the sure locks, who the borderline players are, and who may have a shot in five to ten years.

HOF Locks:

Brett Fave, QB

This is a no-brainer. Favre hurt his legacy just a bit with this whole soap opera each offseason, but no matter what he says or does, Favre will see himself in Canton on the first ballot.

Favre, the definition of a gunslinger, holds the all-time passing touchdown record with 497, but also happens the be the leader in career interceptions (317). Favre could easily be considered the best Green Bay Packer of all-time, and has a ring to prove his greatness. His will to play the game has yet to be matched as he holds the record for the most consecutive starts (287), discluding Jeff Feagles' 336 since he was only a punter.

His legacy isn't quite complete, seeing as he could win another ring this year in Minnesota. But his Hall of Fame campaign was over several years ago when he left Wisconsin. Entering what could be his 20th and final season, Favre has both attempted (9,811) and completed (6,083) the most passes in league history. One last thing Favre will be remembered for is his cannon of an arm.
Peyton Manning, QB

Peyton is, by far, the smartest quarterback in league history. He is his own offensive coordinator and basically runs the offense himself. Manning's Super Bowl victory against Chicago in 2006 solidified his immortal future in the Hall.

Manning holds numerous records, and has thrown for 4,000-plus yards in 10 of his 12 NFL seasons, all in Indy. Even more miraculous, Manning has yet to miss a game, starting all 16 regular season games throughout his career.

Manning is the only player in history to win the league MVP four times, and he once held the record for most passing TDs in a season with 49. In his 192 starts, Peyton has accumulated a winning percentage of .682 (131-61) and has helped the Colts capture a Lombardi trophy, two AFC titles and seven division titles. While the starter, Indy has missed the playoffs just two times.

Manning is a sure-fire, first ballot HOF no matter which way you slice it.

Tom Brady, QB

Brady's three Super Bowl rings and 16-0 regular season in '07, in which he threw for a record 50 touchdown passes, should be enough to put him in. But, it wont be.

Lucky for him, he has done some other great things such as put up a regular season record of 97-30, a postseason record of 14-4 and even post a 93.3 career QB rating. The only season his rating dipped below 83.9 was in his rookie season when he completed just one pass on three attempts, which went for six yards.

The five-time Pro Bowler was said to have had an off year in '09, just one season off a major knee injury, yet still threw for 4,398 yards and 28 TDs in New England's 10-6 season. Since his first start in 2001, Brady has produced 21 fourth quarter comebacks and 29 game-winning drives.

I'm sure there are guys out there that will disagree with me, but I would certainly vote Brady in based on what he has done so far.

Ladainian Tomlinson, RB

Tomlinson is the leading active rusher right now (12,490 yards; 8th all time), and still holds the coveted single-season rushing touchdown record which he set back in 2006 with 28. The three-time All Pro has run for double-digit touchdown totals in all nine of his NFL seasons.

Just this past season, his final year with the Bolts, was the first time Tomlinson didn't break a 1,000 yards on the ground. His durability shows with the fact that he missed just three regular season games so far in his career, but come playoff time he didn't seem quite as reliable. In seven playoff games, LT managed just 327 yards and four touchdowns on 96 carries (3.4 YPC).

That may be the only thing that will hurt Tomlinson's case, is playoff struggles. But, despite that, I would still give Tomlinson my vote, especially when you consider that PFR compares his nine-year career to players such as Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson.
Terrell Owens, WR

Despite being a locker room cancer to many of the teams he's been a part of in his 14-year career, Owens  has Hall-worthy numbers. T.O. is first among active players in receptions (1,006) and receiving yards (14,951). Those numbers are good enough for sixth all time and third all time respectively.

The six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All Pro has recorded nine 1,000 yards seasons and caught double digit touchdowns eight times. In 11 career playoff games, Owens has caught 54 passes for 751 yards and five touchdowns.

His career has been compared to players such as Steve Largent, Raymond Berry, Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Jimmy Smith and Cris Carter. All of which are either already in the Hall or Hall-bound.

Randy Moss, WR

Randy's 12-year career is very much similar to Owens'. Moss, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has 926 career receptions (10th all-time, second among active players) and 14,465 receiving yards (sixth all-time, second among active players).

In both of those categories Moss is behind only Owens on the list, but Moss's 148 receiving touchdowns is good for second all-time, four ahead of Owens. Moss is only 32, which is four years younger than Owens, meaning Moss could easily end up surpassing Owens in most categories. Especially when you consider that Terrell may not even have a team in 2010.

Moss may not have a ring, but he can say he was part of one of the best offenses in league history, the '07 Patriots. That season, his first with the Pats, he reeled in 98 balls for 1,493 yards and a record 23 touchdowns catches.
Tony Gonzalez, TE

Big Tony, who has proven that he can both block and catch passes over the middle, will likely go down as one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the game. The 10-time Pro Bowler has caught 999 passes throughout his 13 year career, which is good enough for the second-most among active players (behind only Terrell Owens).

Not only that, but it is also good enough for seventh-most in history. The next tight end on the list is Ozzie Newsome, who is all the way down at 39th-most. Had Gonzalez not been stuck on the Chiefs' roster for a majority of his career, who knows what else he could've accomplished.

But, nevertheless, Tony G. was a chief, and arguably the best to ever put on that uniform. The 6'5'' end reeled in double-digit TD totals three times, and surpassed 1,000 receiving yards four different times. His  102 receptions in the 2004 regular season is an NFL record by a tight end.

Gonzalez was a monster on the field and is considered, in my book at least, the best to ever play the position. He totally set the path for other tight ends, like Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark, to be more involved in the passing game.

Offensive linemen: Steve Hutchinson, Flozell Adams, Orlando Pace

Recently retired locks: Isaac Bruce, Marvin Harrison


Drew Brees, QB

Brees' career got off to a rocky start in San Diego after throwing 29 touchdown passes as compared to 31 interceptions through his first three seasons. But things started to turn around for him in his last two years on the west coast ('04 and '05). He managed to get enough attention from New Orleans, despite recent shoulder surgery, and they grabbed him in the offseason heading in to the 2006 season.

What a great move, I'd say. Brees was named to his second Pro Bowl and first All-Pro team that season after passing for 4,418 yards, 26 TDs and just 11 INTs as the Saints finished the season 10-6. Two years later Brees would pass for 5,000 yards and 34 TD's, and then this year he passed for another 34 TDs while completing 70 percent of his passes.

Brees is only borderline because he really only has six solid seasons under his belt, but he has proven he's a winner by winning a ring this past year, and he's certainly considered an elite NFL quarterback. If he can put up another solid 4-5 seasons, I would most definitely give him the nod for the Hall. Keep it up, Drew!
Edgerrin James, RB

James is currently 11th on the all-time rushing yards list with 12,246 yards, behind only Ladianian Tomlinson on the active list. Selected to four Pro Bowls, James has put up seven seasons with 1,100 or more rushing yards, including 1,500-plus and 13 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons in the league.

James's 80 rushing touchdowns puts him 18th on the all-time list and, again, he is behind only Tomlinson on the active list. James has had two straight sub-par seasons with Arizona and Seattle, but his numbers from 1999-07 should be good enough to at least get him consideration from the Hall voting committee.

Torry Holt, WR

Holt, a member of the 'greatest show on turf,' put up eight straight seasons of 80-plus catches, 1,100-plus yards from 2000-07. During that span, he was named to seven Pro Bowls and selected to an All Pro team. His 74 career touchdowns is good enough for sixth among active players.

His 13,382 receiving yards is good for third among active players behind, of course, Owens and Moss. Holt has twice caught for over 100 balls in a season, which included 117 in 2003.

Holt has taken part in two Super Bowls with the Rams, winning one of them in 1999, when Holt caught seven of Kurt Warner's passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Hines Ward, WR

Ward holds Pittsburgh's franchise records in all three of the main receiving categories: receptions (895), yards (10,947) and TDs (78). The four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XL MVP is known as one of the most feared blockers from the receiver position, and isn't afraid of going over the middle to catch a key pass on third down.

Despite his size, Ward has proven himself with consistency. In his 12-year career Ward has broken 1,000 yards through the air six times, and has caught double digit TDs on three separate occasions.

The two-time Super Bowl champ set career-highs in receptions, yards and TDs in 2002 after catching 112 passes for 1,329 yards and 12 TDs. Ward's toughness and consistency will make him a Hall of Fame finalist and could eventually push him over the top and in the Hall.

Offensive linemen: Kevin Mawae, Chris Samuels, Jeff Saturday, Brian Waters

Recently retired borderlines: Kurt Warner


Adrian Peterson, RB

What concerns me the most at this point is the fumbles. There aren't any backs in the Hall that were fumblers like Peterson has shown recently. But, other than the fumbles Peterson looks like he could be on his way to a Hall of Fame career if he keeps up his pace.

After his first three seasons, Peterson has put up back-to-back-to-back 1,300-plus yard, 10-plus TD seasons. He could even find himself a Super Bowl champion after this season.
Chris Johnson, RB

The sky is the limit for this guy after he became just the sixth player to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a season. And he did it in his second season. He says he can do even better, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR

Larry Fitz is one of the most well-known wide receivers in the game right now and attracts two or three DBs easily.

In just six NFL seasons, Fitzgerald has accumulated 7,067 yards and 59 touchdowns. He is even more successful when playoff time comes around. In six career playoff games Fitz has caught 42 passes for 705 yards and nine touchdowns, which includes a record-breaking postseason in 2008 in which he went for four straight 100-yard games and seven touchdowns on Arizona's run to the Super Bowl.

Antonio Gates, TE

In seven seasons, Gates has put up two seasons of 80-plus receptions and 1,100 yards on separate occasions. Gates has been chasing Tony Gonzalez as the best tight end in the game for several years now, and thanks to his quarterback Philip Rivers, he may make it back to his seventh Pro Bowl this year.

Josh Cribbs, Return Specialist

This season, Cribbs broke Eric Metcalf's record for most kick returns for touchdowns in a career, with eight. What's so great about this is that he's just 26 years old and did it in only five seasons, while Metcalf returned six over 13 NFL seasons. Next for Cribbs? Breaking the punt returns record (he currently has two, and the record is 10).
Offensive linemen: Joe Thomas, Matt Light

Other noteworthy names:

Donovan McNabb
Ahman Green
Fred Taylor
Joey Galloway
Derrick Mason

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