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 NFC North can be defined:
” * ” are players who have retired this offseason
Looking like it: Jimmy Graham
Expectations were high for the Chicago Bears coming into 2019 after making the playoffs off of the league’s best defense the year before. But the team disappointed and fell short due to a lackluster offense. Though the Bears have a lot of veterans on their roster they are no way the favorite to win the division this year. Many believe they are the third-best team in the division.
Though he did not develop into the wide receiver many thought he would be, Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of the league’s best players. Patterson is believed to be the best returner in football today. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-Team All-Pro and three-time Second-Team All-Pro. Patterson has seven career kick return touchdowns and the record for the longest kick return touchdown in NFL History (109 yards). He won a Super Bowl as a member of the 2018 New England Patriots team. Patterson was also recognized as the league’s best kick returner of his time being named to the 2010s All-Decade Team. He may not be discussed as a future Hall of Famer but his resume is enough to earn him a gold jacket.
A more obvious candidate for the Hall of Fame is Khalil Mack. It seems like Mack has been the best edge rusher in football since entering the league in 2014. Mack has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2015 and is a five-time First-Team All-Pro (three seasons). He was named First-Team All-Pro at defensive end and linebacker in 2015 and 2018. Mack is also the first player in NFL history to be named an All-Pro for two different positions in the same year. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016. Mack’s addition to the Chicago Bears defense gave them the spark they needed to emerge as a playoff team in 2018. He is a member of the 2010s All-Decade Team. Mack has only had two seasons throughout his career where he did not put up double-digit sacks. At the rate Mack is playing at he will no doubt be a Hall of Famer.
Though he declined in recent years, Jimmy Graham was one of the best tight ends in football for an extended period of time. During his time in New Orleans, he was in the category of best tight end in the league with Rob Gronkowski. While he was in Seattle, Graham emerged as one of the best red-zone targets in the league. Graham is a five-time Pro Bowler, a First-Team All-Pro in 2013, and Second Team All-Pro in 2011. In 2013 he led the league in touchdowns with 16. Graham has the eighth-most receiving yards ever by a tight end and the seven before him are either in or locks for the Hall of Fame. His time in Green Bay definitely a blemish on his resume, but if Graham can have one more good season in Chicago he could be a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Kyle Long had an extremely bright future coming into the league being a Pro Bowler in his first three seasons. He also was a Second-Team All-Pro in 2014. but injuries riddled the rest of his career and hasn’t done much since. His early retirement also doesn’t help his case/ Long will likely not be in the Hall of Fame.
The Chicago Bears number one receiver Allen Robinson was a Pro Bowler in 2015 during his time in Jacksonville. He also led the league in touchdowns that season with 14. However, Robinson does not have much more on his resume. That is why he is not considered a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
Ted Ginn Jr. has managed to have a lengthy career in the NFL. The speedster has played for six different teams (Carolina Panthers twice) in 14 years. For the majority of his career, he has been a secondary wide receiver or the team’s returner. He has never had 800 yards or more receiving in a season, but he has seven return touchdowns. He will not be a Hall of Fame player after he retires.
Nick Foles has had a weird, but accomplished career. Foles is famously known for playing in relief of Carson Wentz and carrying the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory. He was the MVP of the Super Bowl as well. In 2013 Foles was a Pro Bowler and led the league in passer rating. He also threw for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions that season putting up one of the best turnover differentials of all time. Regardless of all of that Foles has never been able to find a home. He has played for 5 different teams (Philadelphia Eagles twice) throughout his career. He was also a backup quarterback for large portions of his nine-year career. If Foles has outstanding success in Chicago it could be a different story, but for right now Foles will go down as a Philadelphia Eagles legend but not a Hall of Famer.
Both Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan have been staples of the Chicago Bears’ defense. Hicks was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and Trevathan was a part of the Denver Broncos Super Bowl team in 2015. Both have been very good Chicago Bears but they will not be members of the Hall of Fame.
It seems like forever ago that Robert Quinn was one of the best edge rushers in football. In 2013 he has 19 sacks which led him to his first Pro Bowl and only First-Team All-Pro selection. He was also a Pro Bowler in 2014. After a few down years, Quinn looked like his old self in Dallas posting 11.5 sacks and earned himself a large contract in Chicago. It’ll be interesting to see what Quinn can do opposite Khalil Mack. But up to this point, Quinn does not make a strong case for the Hall of Fame.
In recent years Kyle Fuller has discretely become one of the league’s best cornerbacks. He has put up outstanding interception numbers every single season including seven in 2018. His performance in 2018 earned him a Pro Bowl appearance and a spot on the First-Team All-Pro team. Fullers only other Pro Bowl appearance came this past season. Unfortunately at age 28, Fuller doesn’t have a lot of time left before he slows down so it seems unlikely that he will be a Hall of Famer one day.
Eddie Jackson is one of the leagues best young safeties. He is a ballhawk that is always a threat to get into the end zone. In three years Jackson has 10 interceptions and five career defensive touchdowns. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and was a First Team All-Pro in 2018. If Jackson can keep up this production for a few more seasons he could be considered for the Hall of Fame one day.
It might seem like a stretch, but Tarik Cohens playing style could get him into the Hall of Fame one day. Cohen is almost an exact clone of Darren Sproles. Sproles retired this past season and will likely be a Hall of Famer one day. Cohen was a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 2018. If Cohen can follow in Sproles’ footsteps and earn himself some more accolades throughout his career he could join Sproles in the Hall of Fame.
Definite Hall of Fame:
Looking like it:
Give it time:
The Detroit Lions were riddled with injuries last season. But besides the injuries, the Lions weren’t likely going to do much last season. Though their offense was effective their defense was one of the worst in the league. Thought the Lions made a few additions on both sides of the ball the Lions expectations should not be hight next season. Their roster has some accomplished players but none that are the caliber of the Hall of Fame.
Matt Stafford has been good for the Lions since they took him first overall in 2009. He has been to three Pro Bowls and won Comeback Player of the Year in 2011. But he hasn’t had any playoff success and hasn’t taken the Lions to the playoffs many times. Unfortunately for Stafford, to be a Hall of Fame quarterback a Super Bowl victory or appearance is needed. Stafford hasn’t even had a playoff win so right now he is not a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Under head coach Matt Patricia the Lions have recruited and signed a lot of former New England Patriots on their roster. Jamie Collins has only been to one Super Bowl but was also a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro in 2015. Danny Shelton has also only won one Super Bowl but that’s it. Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola are both two-time Super Bowl Champions but do not have much else to add to their resume. Finally, Duron Harmon is one of the few players in NFL history to be a three-time Super Bowl Champion, but he has never been more than a starting-caliber safety. None of them are likely to make the Hall of Fame.
Desmond Trufant was a top 10 cornerback in the league for a long period of time in Atlanta. He was recognized as a Pro Bowler in 2015. But that is the only achievement he has had. If he doesn’t regain form from earlier in his career, Trufant will not be a Hall of Famer.
Matt Prater has the record for the longest field goal in NFL History at 64 yards. He has also been a two-time Pro Bowler and a Second-Team All-Pro in 2013. But it is very hard to make the Hall of Fame as a kicker and unless Prater has a long successful career after this point he will not make the Hall of Fame.
Green Bay Packers
Definite Hall of Fame: Aaron Rodgers
Looking like it:
The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 last season in the ugliest way possible. They were sloppy and Aaron Rodgers didn’t look great at times. But their run game and elite pass rush got them to the NFC Championship. After falling a game short of the Super Bowl the team expects to be in the hunt again for another Super Bowl and has the roster to do so.
There should be no doubt that Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Famer. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the history of the league. Rodgers won the MVP in both 2011 and 2014. He also led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and was the Super Bowl MVP. Rodgers is a three-time All-Pro, a member of the 2010s All-Decade Team and so much more. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Marcedes Lewis has been in the NFL for a long time. But during his 15-year career, Lewis has only been a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro in 2010. He is one of the better blocking tight ends in the league but is not a Hall of Famer.
Mason Crosby has been in the NFL for a long time and has benefited from playing with the Packers for so long. But he has never been to a Pro Bowl. Though in his rookie season he led the league in scoring. He just is not in the Hall of Fame conversation.
Within the past few seasons, Davante Adams has become one of the best wide receivers in the league. Adams has been a Pro Bowler the past three seasons and has three straight seasons of double-digit touchdowns in his career. Even after missing four games this past season, Adams was three yards short of 1,000 receiving yards. If Adams keeps this up for a few more seasons he could one day be a member of the Hall of Fame.
There is a strong argument that David Bakhtiari is the best-left tackle in football. Bakhtiari is a two-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro. If he has a few more seasons of success he could become a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
Definite Hall of Fame: Gary Kubiak
Looking like it: Harrison Smith
Give it time: Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks
The Minnesota Vikings made it to the playoffs during the second year of the Kirk Cousins era. They even upset a major Super Bowl favorite the New Orleans Saints in the wildcard round. After retooling with some younger players the Vikings are still considered a favorite to win the NFC North.
There are not many offensive coordinators that are Hall of Fame locks. But there aren’t made offensive coordinators that are Gary Kubiak. He is a four-time Super Bowl Champion (one time as a head coach). Kubiak is also the Houston Texans’ all-time leader in wins. The only reason why he is not a head coach in the league is that his health isn’t in a position to be responsible for an entire team. Kubiak will be a Hall of Famer when he retires.
A player who deserves more attention than he does his Harrison Smith. Smith has been a Pro Bowler the past five seasons. He was a First-Team All-Pro in 2017 and Second-Team All-Pro in 2018. If Smith keeps up his high level of play for a little bit longer he will be a locker the Hall of Fame.
Adam Thielen has a fantastic story. Once an undrafted free agent, Thielen worked his way up the depth chart up to become the team’s number one receiver. He is also a two-time Pro Bowler and was a second-team All-Pro in 2017. In 2018 Thielen had eight straight games with 100 receiving yards or more. If he keeps up this production for a few more years he could one day be a Hall of Famer but he doesn’t have much wiggle room at age 29. Right now it is hard to consider Thielen a Hall of Famer.
Kyle Rudolph has been considered one of the leagues better tight ends for a while, but he has never been great. Though Rudolph has been a two-time Pro Bowler, but he has never gone over 1,000 yards in a single season. He has also never been considered the best tight end in football. He has been very good at best, but not one of the best of all time.
Three years ago Dan Bailey was on track to become a Hall of Fame Kicker. He was the most accurate kicker in NFL history for an extended period of time. Bailey was also a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro in 2015. But after sustaining an injury, he hasn’t been the same. He could go down as one of the better kickers in NFL History but right now is not in the category as the few Hall of Fame kickers.
Mike Zimmer has been an NFL coach for 26 years, however, he has only been a head coach for seven of them. He is very well respected around the league but has not had any major success as a head coach. His best attempt at a Super Bowl was in 2017 when he made it to the NFC Championship. However, Zimmer was the defensive backs coach of the Cowboys Super Bowl team in 1996. With his career likely coming to an end within the next few years Zimmer will not make it to the Hall of Fame without another Super Bowl appearance or coach of the year award.
Danielle Hunter has emerged as one of the league’s best edge rushers at a young age. He has made the past two Pro Bowls and was a Second Team All-Pro in 2018. Hunter has 54.5 sacks in five seasons and appears to keep getting better by the year. If he could keep up the production for an extended period of time he will be a Hall of Famer.
Anthony Barr is an older player, but he still has a lot left in the tank. Barr has made four Pro Bowls in six seasons. Even after a down year, Barr is still one of the best outside linebackers in the league. If he can rack up a few more Pro Bowls and an All-Pro appearance or two he could be Hall of Fame-bound.
Eric Kendricks was named a First-Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler for the first time this past season. He has gotten better every season of his career. If he plays at this level for a couple more seasons he could be a Hall of Famer when it is all said and done.