The ultimate goal of most NFL players is to one day make the Hall of Fame. It seems like once a veteran plays at an elite level for a large period of time, he gets recognition for his high level of play on a yearly basis, and/or appears in Super Bowls or multiple playoff games they are deemed to be ‘future Hall of Famers. Is there an exact science to what makes a player qualify as a Hall of Famer? Can someone be deemed a Hall of Famer or are their levels to how likely a player is to end up in Canton?
Here are the four levels that could define a player that could be considered one day for the Hall of Fame:
Definite Hall of Fame- This player is guaranteed to wear the golden jacket and get a bust in Canton. He might even might even get voted in on the first ballot.
Looking like it- The player isn’t a lock for the Hall of Fame, but has been successful enough to be in the conversation. He could very well be a Hall of Famer, but it could be debated that the player shouldn’t be. This player has an impressive resume and is one or two additions to their resume away ensuring their spot in Canton.
Just missed the cut- Some veteran players just aren’t Hall of Famers. A player could play at a high level for an extended player of time, they could even be one of the best in franchise history at their position. But if they are not one of the best of all time or even one of the best in the league at their position they are not Hall of Fame players. Depending on the age of the player this isn’t set in stone, the player might not be Hall of Fame material yet.
Give it time- There are a lot of young players in the league that could have a future in Canton, but it is too early to say. A lot of the league’s top talent are young players. It might too soon to label these players as the best who have ever played the game, but if they keep it up at the rate they currently are, they will enter the Hall of Fame conversation.
Here is how the careers of current players in the NFC West can be defined:
” * ” are players who have retired this offseason
Definite Hall of Fame: Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson
Looking like it: Chandler Jones, DeAndre Hopkins
Just missed the cut:
Give it time:
The Arizona Cardinals are on the cusp of finishing their rebuild are looking to contend as soon as possible. This is why there aren’t many players on their roster who are not in the Hall of Fame conversation. However, there are a few veterans on this roster worthy of being considered for Canton.
There are two players on the Arizona Cardinals that would-be Hall of Fame players if they retired today. Larry Fitzgerald is no doubt going to be one day receiving a gold jacket and have a bust along the other greatest players to ever play the game. Since getting drafted in the first round in 2004, Fitzgerald has been to Pro Bowl 11 times, named an All-Pro three times, led the league in receptions in 2005 and eleven years later in 2016. He also led the league in touchdowns in 2008 & 2009. He was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team and 2010’s All-Decade team. Fitzgerald’s resume and stats speak for himself.
Since Patrick Peterson entered the league in 2011 he has been one of the league’s best cornerbacks. Peterson is an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and like his teammate, Fitzgerald was named to the 2010’s All-Decade team. Being dominant for as long as Peterson has as a cornerback is rare and is the reason why he will be a Hall of Famer.
Chandler Jones was an above-average pass rusher that showed a lot of promise in New England. Winning a Super Bowl with them definitely helps his case, but he was not considered a potential Hall of Fame player until he was traded to Arizona. Jones has sneakily become one of the best pass rushers in football stacking his resume with Pro Bowls and All-Pro honors. Jones even led the league in sacks in 2017 and was also named to the 2010’s All-Decade team. If Jones keeps this up for a few more seasons he could very well become a no-doubt Hall of Famer.
Unlike Chandler Jones, DeAndre Hopkins was considered one of if not the best at his position on his former team. Hopkins is no doubt a top-three receiver in the league. There is a case for Hopkins to be the best offensive player in the history of the Houston Texans. Hopkins has been a Pro Bowler and All-Pro four times each in his career. If Hopkins continues his play in Arizona for a few more seasons he will be in Canton one day.
There are no other veterans on their roster that are in the Hall of Fame conversation and the young guys on their roster are too unproven to get considered. It would take a monster year from any of them to receive consideration. The obvious player with the best odds to do that is second-year quarterback Kyler Murray who played well his first year and could see a lot of success down the road.
San Fransisco 49ers
Definite Hall of Fame: Richard Sherman
Looking like it: Joe Staley*
Just missed the cut: Trent Williams, Robbie Gould, Kyle Jusczyk
Give it time: George Kittle, Nick Bosa
Last year’s NFC Champions had plenty of veterans on their roster that helped them get as far as they ultimately did. As good as the 49ers are, they do not have many players on their roster who are considered all-time great players.
The only player on the San Fransisco 49ers roster that is a lock to one day be in the Hall of Fame got to that point playing for one of their division rivals and beating the 49ers in some epic battles. Richard Sherman made a name for himself when he played for the Seattle Seahawks. Many considered Sherman the best cornerback in the league. Not only was he a shutdown corner, but he was a ballhawk as well. After a slight fall-off Sherman found himself playing for division rival San Fransisco 49ers. It did not take long for Sherman to reassert himself as one of the league’s best in his position. Sherman is a five-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro. He also played in three Super Bowls winning one. The fact that he was so instrumental to the teams that he led to the Super Bowl pushes him from a great to a Hall of Fame player.
Joe Staley has been one of the more underrated left tackles in all of football the past couple of seasons. He has been as consistent as it comes for the 49ers. He spent his entire career in San Fransisco where he made six Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro three times. His play led him to be a part of the 2010’s All-Decade team. After this past season, Staley decided to hang it up and retire from the NFL. If Staley had won one of the two Super Bowls he played in he would have been a lock to be in the Hall of Fame. There was also never a point where Staley was the best left tackle in football, but he was always considered a top-5 player at the position. Staley is one of the best 49ers to ever play for them and could be inducted to the Hall of Fame one day, it just isn’t a sure thing that he will get voted in.
The 49ers have three veterans that have had great careers, but won’t make it to the Hall of Fame. The best odds to do so is Trent Williams. Williams was traded to the 49ers after Joe Staley announced his retirement during the draft. Williams was one of the best left tackles in the league for a long time making seven Pro Bowls in Washington. However, he has only been an All-Pro once and missed over a season because of injury and a holdout. He can change that narrative in San Fransisco, but is not a Hall of Famer right now.
Robbie Gould is the highest-scoring player in Chicago Bears history, but the fact of the matter is that it takes a lot for a kicker to make the Hall of Fame. There are only four kickers in Canton. Barring anything crazy Gould will not be one of them.
The best fullback in the league is Kyle Jusczyk. However, the fullback position is a dying one being seen less in modern offenses. Fullbacks also are less involved in the offenses they play in, being used only for blocking rather than as a weapon like they were previously. It doesn’t seem that any fullback from this era of football can make the Hall of Fame.
What makes the 49ers so special is the amount of young talent they have on their roster. Their best two young players are George Kittle and Nick Bosa. Kittle has become one of the league’s best tight ends in three seasons. In that time he has been to two Pro Bowls and named to two All-Pro teams. He also holds the record for most receiving yards in a single season (1,377). Kittle has a long way to go before he is Hall of Fame material, but he is on the right track to get there.
A player who has even longer to go is Nick Bosa. It might be a hot take and a bit of a stretch for him to be a part of this list after one season. But it is rare that rookies come into the league and change a tea the way Bosa does. Bosa turned the 49er’s defense into one of the best in the league and quickly became one of the best pass rushers in the league. He was named to the Pro Bowl team this year and won Defensive Rookie of the Year. With so much time grow and develop Bosa could be a scary player to watch and has all the tools to become the best pass rusher in football.
Los Angeles Rams
Definite Hall of Fame: Aaron Donald, Eric Weddle*
Looking like it: Johnny Hekker, Andrew Whitworth
Just missed the cut:
Give it time: Jalen Ramsey
The problem with the Rams between 2018 and 2019 was that they replaced their starters with less-expensive veterans and got very old. Now the Rams are attempting to rectify that this offseason by bringing in some young blood. However, there are still a good amount of veterans on their roster who might end up in Canton one day.
There should be no doubt about Aaron Donald making the Hall of Fame. Since getting drafted in 2014 Donald has been to six Pro Bowls and been named to the First Team All-Pro team five times. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 & 2018 and led the league in sacks in 2018. This is unheard of from an interior defensive line position. He was also named to the 2010’s All-Decade team. Donald for an extended period of time has been the best in the league at his position and arguably the best defensive player in the league.
Eric Weddle might have only played one season with the Rams and then retired this offseason, but before that, he was considered one of the best safeties in football. Like Donald, Weddle was named to the 2010’s All-Decade team. Weddle was in his prime when he played for the San Diego Chargers and he kept up that high level of production towards the end of his career in Baltimore. He played in six Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro five times. Weddle also led the league in interceptions in 2011. He will become a member of the Hall of Fame at some point down the road.
As crazy as it sounds Johnny Hekker has a case to one day become the second punter to make it into the Hall of Fame. At the age of 30 Hekker has been to four Pro Bowls, been a six-time All-Pro and two-time punting yards leader. Hekker also holds the record for the longest punt in Super Bowl history. If Hekker plays into his late 30’s-early 40’s like most punters do his resume might be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.
Andrew Whitworth’s resume might not scream Hall of Famer, but anyone that has watched him play over the years knows he makes a case for it. Whitworth is only a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro at age 38, but if he ends his career strong he might have a case to make it into Canton one day.
There are no older veterans on the Rams roster who can make a case for the Hall of Fame someday. However, there is one veteran who is at the top of his game, but isn’t in that category yet. Jalen Ramsey at times has looked like the best cornerback in football. However, he has had his moments where he will get exposed by big-name wide receivers. Ramsey isn’t a true shutdown cornerback. But at age 25 Ramsey shouldn’t be written off completely. He still has a few prime years to get himself into the Hall of Fame discussion. He already is recognized as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Ramsey also has played in three Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro in 2017. His window is closing to reach that type of stardom, but there is a lot of reason to believe that Ramsey will get there.
Cooper Kupp has gotten better every year in his career and this past season he emerged as the team’s true number one. He has the potential to become the best slot receivers in football. But Kupp has not done enough in his short time in his league to show that the Hall of Fame could be his future.
Definite Hall of Fame: Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner
Looking like it: Greg Olsen, Pete Carroll
Just missed the cut: K.J. Wright, Duane Brown, Mike Iupati
Give it time: Tyler Lockett
Since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014, they have been ridding their team of their veterans and replacing them with younger cheaper talent. However, there are have been two constants on both sides of the ball since then. Those constants are Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.
It is by no means a stretch to call Russell Wilson a Hall of Famer. What he has been able to do during his career has been phenomenal. He won the Super Bowl in his second year in the league and almost repeated the following year against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Even though the Seahawks were a run-first team during that time Wilson developed into an elite quarterback around the time Marshawn Lynch started to fade away from the team. Wilson is a seven-time Pro Bowler, led the league in passer rating in 2015, led the league in passing touchdowns in 2017 and was named to the second-team All-Pro team this past season. Wilson would have likely won the MVP if not for Lamar Jackson’s amazing year. He has also never had a losing season since entering the league and has only missed the playoffs once during that time. Though his yearly awards don’t compare to Hall of Fame quarterbacks, his lesser-acknowledged stats are what will get him into the Hall of Fame.
Bobby Wagner has been one of two linebackers that have been the best in the league for a couple of years now (Luke Kuechly). Wagner is a six-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro (five-time First Team) and had led the league in tackles twice (2019,2019). His Super Bowl win seems like overkill considering the rest of his resume. Watching Wagner play and how the effects an offense should be enough to show why he is a generational linebacker. Wagner also was named to the 2010’s All-Decade Team.
The Seattle Seahawks’ biggest offseason addition came early on before Free Agency opened. It was when they signed tight end Greg Olsen. In Carolina, Olsen was Cam Newton’s favorite and most dangerous weapon for a number of years. Olsen might only have three Pro Bowl appearances and been named an All-Pro twice. But what will get him into Canton will be the fact that he has the fifth-most receiving yards among tight ends ever. Before him are two Hall of Famers (Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe) and two future Hall of Famers (Antonio Gates, Jason Witten). It isn’t set in stone that he will make it to the Hall of Fame. A Super Bowl win or another great season might get him there. But he has very good odds of making it someday.
Pete Carroll is one of the most respected coaches in all of football. Carroll is given a lot of credit for the Seahawks team he has built and the culture he instilled in that locker room. He turned Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner into what they are. He also has only missed the playoffs twice since becoming the Seahawks coach in 2010. He is the all-time most winningest coach in Seahawks history and was listed as a coach for the 2010’s All-Decade team. A Super Bowl win definitely will boost a Hall of Fame resume. But anyone who knows Pete Carroll and seen what he has done before and in Seattle knows that one day he will be in the Hall of Fame.
Marshawn Lynch is not on this list because he is technically a free agent. Once he decides to either sign with the Seahawks or retire he will fall under the Looking like it section. Though Lynch was dominant for a short period of time. It was only a couple year span where he was the best power back in football. Even then, he was only voted to two All-Pro teams since entering the league in 2007. His dominant play, Seahawks franchise records, and postseason records will help validate his case to one day be a Hall of Famer.
There are two veterans on the Seattle Seahawks roster who are well respected, one might even get his jersey retired by the Seahawks, but will not be Hall of Famers barring anything drastic. K.J. Wright is that player, he has been a large part of the Seahawks defense since breaking the starting lineup his rookie year. Wright has been a tackle machine, but that is it. He really doesn’t do much to put him in the category as one of the greatest to ever play. He was a part of the Super Bowl team and was a Pro Bowler in 2016.
Duane Brown has been one of the league’s better left tackles for some time now. However, he has seemed peak right before the point where he could enter the conversation as the best left tackle in football. Brown played for the Houston Texans from 2008-2017 when he was traded to Seattle. He is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time former All-Pro. At age 34, Brown could see a decline in play that see’s him just missing the mark to be in the Hall of Fame picture.
Like Duane Brown, Mike Iupati is a household name offensive lineman, but was never considered the best guard in football for an extended period of time. Iupati peaked with the San Fransisco 49er but declined when he played for the Arizona Cardinals and Seahawks. Iupati is a four-time Pro bowler and was a two-time All-Pro. He is a way above average starter, but not one of the greatest guards to ever play football.
A name to look out for during the rest of his career is Tyler Lockett. Since 2015, he has been to one Pro Bowl (2015) and been listed to the All-Pro team three-times as a return specialist. But for the rest of Lockett’s career, people should pay attention to him as a receiver. Lockett has gotten better every year since entering the league and has become the Seahawks number one receiver. Even after adding D.K. Metcalf, Lockett still remains Russell Wilson’s favorite target. If Lockett’s numbers continue to go up it will be hard to ignore him as one of the better deep threats in all of football. If Lockett starts to make Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams because of his receiving skills it will be hard to make a case for him not to be in the Hall of Fame.