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 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 AFC East can be defined:
” * ” are players who have retired this offseason
Definite Hall of Fame:
Looking like it:
Just missed the cut: Andre Roberts, Daryl Williams, Josh Norman,, Micah Hyde, Lorenzo Alexander*
Give it time: Stefon Diggs, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White
Though the Buffalo Bills are in a position to make the playoffs for the second year in the row and possibly the favorite to win the division, they have an extremely young roster. That being said the Bills do not have any players on their roster who are in the Hall of Fame discussion yet. But they do have some young players who are considered some of the best at their positions and could be considered for the Hall of Fame one day.
The past two seasons Andre Roberts has received recognition as one of the best returners in football. He has been a Pro Bowler the past two seasons and was a First-Team All-Pro in 2018. He led the league in kick return yards that season. At age 32 Roberts’ resume is very good but not great and he will not be a Hall of Famer when he retires.
In 2017 Daryl Williams was a Second-Team All-Pro. For the majority of his career, he has been a versatile offensive lineman who can play multiple positions for the Carolina Panthers. This coming season Williams is competing for a start spot on the Bills offensive line. He is not a Hall of Fame player.
Josh Norman had one of the greatest seasons ever by a cornerback in 2015. He was a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro that season. After that season the Carolina Panthers franchise tagged him, but then later removed the tag and Norman spent the next four seasons in Washington. During his time in Washington, Norman was exposed as a system corner and was considered a bust. Now he is reunited with his former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott in Buffalo and trying to get back to that elite level. Unless Norman can play like he did in Carolina for the remainder of his career he is not a Hall of Famer.
Micah Hyde was a versatile defensive back in Green Bay who could play at cornerback and safety. Hyde’s first year in Buffalo was in 2017. That season he went to the Pro Bowl and was named a Second-Team All-Pro. Though he has not received either recognition since Hyde is still considered one of the best defensive backs in the league. But he will not be in the Hall of Fame after he retires.
Lorenzo Alexander retired this past offseason. He spent his career with a few different teams, but he spent the second most time with the Buffalo Bills. Alexander was a Pro Bowler once in Washington in 2012 and in 2016 with the Bills. He was also a Second Team All-Pro in 2016. Alexander is one of the better outside linebackers during his time in the league, but he will not be a Hall of Famer.
The Bills traded their first-round pick for wide receiver Stefon Diggs to give them a true number one receiver. Since getting drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings Diggs has gotten better every season. Surprisingly Diggs has never been voted to a Pro Bowl or listed as an All-Pro. However, he will likely get those recognitions soon and often for the rest of his career. If so he could end up in the Hall of Fame.
One of the youngest stars in the NFL is Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds in 22 years old and is entering his third season in the league and was voted to his first Pro Bowl last season. His ceiling is sky-high and if he reaches it he could be considered a Hall of Famer.
Tre’Davious White is considered one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. He was drafted late in the first round by Buffalo to replace Stefon Gilmore and he has done it extremely well. This past season White received recognition for his elite status going to his first Pro Bowl and getting named to his first First-Team All-Pro team this past season. If White can keep his play up for the prime of his career he will be a Hall of Famer.
Definite Hall of Fame:
Looking like it:
Just missed the cut: Jordan Howard, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Van Noy
Give it time: Xavien Howard, Byron Jones
This past season the Miami Dolphins attempted to tank for the first overall pick to select Tua Tagovailoa. They didn’t get the first overall pick, but they did end up drafting Tua. The roster still has a lot of holes, but after this offseason picked up some valuable veterans who will play a large role in their future.
Jordan Howard is one of those veterans who will play a big role for them in the next few seasons. In his rookie season, Howard had the second-most rushing yards in the league and made his only Pro Bowl. His role in Chicago got smaller over the years until he was moved to Philadelphia last season. Last year Howard was a part of a committee and faded out of the offense. This season in Miami Howard is the favorite to be the teams starting running back and will split snaps with Matt Breida. Though he had a fantastic start to his career, Howard nothing more than an average starting running back in the league and will likely not make the Hall of Fame.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has had an interesting career so far. It seems like whenever the league appears to be done with Fitzpatrick he appears again and emerges as a starting quarterback. He has not won any single season awards, but is one of the best journeyman quarterbacks in the history of the league, Fitzpatrick has played for eight different teams and will likely start for the Dolphins this season. Regardless of the fact that he has completely exceeded his expectations as a seventh-round pick, Fitzpatrick will not be a Hall of Famer.
One of the Miami Dolphins large offseason signings who is expected to have a huge role on defense is Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy has removed the bust label that he earned in Detroit and become one of the league’s most versatile linebackers. Van Noy can cover and rush the passer at a high level. He was also a start on two of the Patriots’ Super Bowl teams. Unless Van Noy makes a few Pro Bowls in Miami he will not be a Hall of Famer.
The Dolphins’ two most promising players are both cornerbacks. Xavien Howard was drafted in the second round by Miami in 2016. His second year in the league Howard received recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. He was a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro. He played great this past year, but missed time due to injury. If he continues to play at a high level for the rest of his career he could be a Hall of Famer.
The other cornerback who is one of the highlights of the Dolphins roster is Byron Jones. Jones was the largest signing the Dolphins made this offseason. Jones has played at free safety and cornerback in Dallas, but emerged as one of the league’s best cornerbacks in 2018. Like his new teammate Howard, Jones was also a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro in 2018. If Jones can continue to be a shutdown cornerback during his career he could be a Hall of Famer.
New England Patriots
Definite Hall of Fame: Bill Belichick, Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty
Looking like it: Julian Edelman, Donta Hightower, Stephon Gilmore
Just missed the cut: Cam Newton, James White, Jason McCourty, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Josh McDaniels
Give it time: Joe Thuney
The New England Patriots might be the most dominant team in sports over the past 20 years. They have won six Super Bowls during that span and have produced multiple current and future Hall of Fame players during that span. As expected there are many players on their current roster that are going to be considered for the Hall of Fame.
The no-doubt Hall of Famer and the first person in the organization that should be mentioned when talking about Hall of Fame is Bill Belichick. Since becoming the head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000 Belichick has won six Super Bowls, is a three-time Coach of the Year, First Team 2000s All-Decade Team, 2010s All-Decade Team and is member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team. He also holds the NFL records for Super Bowl appearances, victories, NFL Championship wins and playoff wins by a head coach. On top of that, he won two Super Bowls at the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in 1986 and 1990. Canton, Ohio should already have his jacket size on file for when he retires.
A lesser-known Hall of Fame player for the Patriots is special teamer, Matthew Slater. Not many know who Slater is. He is listed as a wide receiver, but he is one of the greatest special team players in NFL History. Slater is a three-time Super Bowl Champion, eight-time Pro Bowler, five-time First-Team All-Pro and one-time Second-Team All-Pro. If they had listed a special teamer position on the 2010s All-Decade Team he would be on that list as well. He might not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer due to his position, but he will be a Hall of Famer one day.
Now that Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay the veteran leader of the Patriots locker room might be Devin McCourty. McCourty was a vital piece of three Super Bowl-winning teams, is a two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Second-Team All-Pro. His role on the Patriots defense during their Super Bowl victories are the reason why he will be in the Hall of Fame.
The new lease of the offense and arguably the best player the Patriots have on that side of the ball is Julian Edleman. To many people’s surprise Edleman has never been voted to a Pro Bowl or been recognized as an All-Pro. But Edleman has been a part of three Super Bowl Champion teams and was the MVP of Super Bowl LIII. He also has the second-most receiving yards in playoff history only behind Jerry Rice. Edleman may have done enough to be recognized as a Hall of Famer, but if he keeps up his production for a few more seasons there will be no doubt.
Donta Hightower has been a staple of the New England Patriots for a number of years now. He has been a part of the Patriots three most recent Super Bowls and is a two-time Pro Bowler. In 2016 Hightower was a Second-Team All-Pro. If he remains one of the league’s best linebackers in New England for a couple more years he could be a Hall of Famer.
Stephon Gilmore left the Buffalo Bills a one time Pro Bowler when he came to New England. Currently, Gilmore is a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time First-Team All-Pro and was Defensive Player of the Year this past season. Gilmore is also considered to be the best cornerback in football. If he can keep up the elite play for a couple more seasons he will be in the Hall of Fame.
The Patriots are attempting to replace Tom Brady with another former MVP, Cam Newton. Newton won his MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and was a First-Team All-Pro in 2015. Besides that, he is a three-time Pro Bowler. The former first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers may have had a high ceiling, but his peak was not very long. Unless Newton can bring the Patriots to the Super Bowl he will not be a Hall of Famer.
James White has played a key part in the New England Patriots’ offense over the past few years. During the majority of his career has been the third option on offense behind Edleman and Rob Gronkowski. White has especially become vital to the Patriots during their postseason and three Super Bowl victories, but White has never been considered one of the best running backs in the league. It is likely that he will not be a Hall of Famer after he retires.
Jason McCourty is the brother of Patriots’ free safety Devin McCourty. Jason is more than just Devin’s brother, he is a starting cornerback in New England and a vital piece of their secondary. Jason was apart of the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl victory, but has not received any single season awards. He will likely not join his brother in the Hall of Fame.
Patrick Chung has been a starting safety in New England for almost a decade. Chung actually spent 2013 in Philadelphia, but returned to New England the following season. He has been a part of three of the Patriots Super Bowl teams. Chung may be a Patriots legend, but he is not a Hall of Famer.
Marcus Cannon is one of the more underrated players in all of football aside from that he is a right tackle. Cannon is a three-time Super Bowl Champion and was a Second Team All-Pro in 2016. He is considered one of the best right tackles in the NFL. But Cannon will likely not end up in the Hall of Fame.
Josh McDaniels has been a part of six of the Patriots Super Bowl victories as an assistant. McDaniels is likely going to be the heir of the Patriots empire when Belichick retires. But it is hard to overlook his time as a head coach in Denver. If McDaniels becomes the head coach of the Patriots and has high levels of success in the role, then he will be a no-doubt Hall of Famer, but for right now he is not.
Early in his career Joe Thuney is considered one of the best interior offensive lineman in the league. On top of his two Super Bowl Championships, Thuney was voted a Second-Team All-Pro last season. If Thuney continues to get better and stays a part of the Patriots offensive line, he could be a Hall of Famer one day.
New York Jets
Definite Hall of Fame: Frank Gore
Looking like it: C.J. Mosley
Just missed the cut: Joe Flacco, Le’Veon Bell
Give it time: Jamal Adams
The New York Jets have hovered around the bottom of the league for the better part of a decade, so it is not surprising to see how few of their players are qualified for this list. Many of the players on this list have had their most successful years before their time with the Jets.
Frank Gore was a late offseason signing by the New York Jets. He will serve as a change of pace back for Le’Veon Bell. However, for most of Gore’s career, he has been much more than a backup. He is a five-time Pro Bowler, Second Team All-Pro in 2006, and a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade team. What makes Gore a Hall of Famer is that he has the third-most rushing yards in NFL history with 15,347 and is still playing at the age of 37. There are not many positions that a player can play the game at age 37 and running back is especially considered one of them. Most running backs retire by 31 or 32, Gore has passed that mark and still is an effective rusher despite his age. He will be a Hall of Famer when he retires.
When the Baltimore Ravens drafted C.J. Mosley he had the tough task of replacing all-time great Ray Lewis as the middle linebacker on their defense. He passed with flying colors. Mosley was a four-time Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro during his five seasons in Baltimore. He was and still is considered one of the best inside linebackers in the league. His first season for the Jets was not great, as he missed a lot of time due to injury. One season lost to injury shouldn’t take Mosley off the track to become a Hall of Famer which he is already on. A few more successful years in the league and he could be a Hall of Famer.
Another former Baltimore Ravens star that is now with the Jets is Joe Flacco. Flacco spent 11 years in Baltimore where he won Rookie of the Year, a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP. Many consider Flacco to be the best quarterback in Ravens franchise history. He spent last year with the Broncos warming up the seat for Drew Lock and now is Sam Darnold’s backup. Unfortunately, though Flacco has a Super Bowl on his resume, the fact that he has no single season awards will keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
The most dynamic player on the New York Jets is running back Le’Veon Bell. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time First-Team All-Pro and one-time Second-Team All-Pro. Has patience when running the football is what young running backs try to mirror in order to have success and for a period of time Bell could be argued as the best offensive player in football. However, the past two seasons have not been great for Bell. In the fist, Bell sat out the entire years protesting his franchise tag placement and the second he had the worst season of his career in his first year in New York. Both years Bell did not receive any honors. If Bell cannot return for his form from earlier seasons for a year or two it is unlikely he will make the Hall of Fame.
Jamal Adams is considered to be a top-five defensive back in the league. There is also a case for him to be the best safety in the league. In his first three seasons, Adams has been a two-time Pro Bowler, a Second-Team All-Pro and a First-Team All-Pro. He is a linebacker that plays safety. He is great at tackling, defending against the run, getting after the quarterback, and overall a great leader. If Adams can keep up this level of play he will be a Hall of Famer when he retires.