What active NFL players are Hall of Fame worthy? That's the question we posed to Yardbarker editors and writers, and boy did we have some spirited debates. (No blood was shed, however.) So we put together a list. The criteria was simple:
Athletes were slotted in tiers:
TIER 1: HALL, YES! A no-brainer Hall of Famer.
TIER 2: YES, BUT ... A Hall of Famer but not on first ballot.
TIER 3: POLARIZING BUT ULTIMATELY IN: Athletes with flaws who ultimately will get in because of their accolades or statistical achievements.
TIER 4: ON PACE FOR GREATNESS: Definitely have the look of Hall of Famers, but they still must accrue more seasons, statistics and accolades to climb the tiers.
TIER 5: HALL, NO! Mostly undeserving but not all hopeless cases.
Mind-blowing stat: Brady has 11,179 career playoff passing yards — 3,840 more than anyone else. If Peyton Manning is removed from this equation, Brady has at least twice as many postseason passing yards as any other quarterback.
While Brady has been blessed with great circumstances, this may be the quickest Hall of Fame conversation in the museum's history. The Patriots' iconic quarterback holds every meaningful playoff passing record, and while his unmatched six Super Bowl rings and nine ultimate-game starts are unfathomable, the soon-to-be 42-year-old's longevity may be a superior "greatest ever" claim. The four-time Super Bowl MVP holds a 125-to-28 TD-to-INT ratio since his age-38 season; he is reshaping the boundaries for QBs in their twilight years.
Mind-blowing stat: Brees is the only player to eclipse 5,000 passing yards in a season more than once. He's done it five times.
Almost certainly the greatest free agent signing in NFL history, Brees transformed the Saints after his 2006 team change and became the most productive passer ever. In addition to his field-lapping dips into mostly unexplored yardage terrain, Brees holds four of the league's top five annual completion percentage marks (topping out at 2018's 74.4 percent). The Super Bowl XLIV MVP changed the Saints' trajectory, steering them to eight playoff wins in 13 seasons after they'd compiled one in 39 pre-Brees years.
Mind-blowing stat: Fitzgerald's 546 receiving yards during the 2008 postseason are 102 more than anyone else's single-playoff total.
The face of Arizona football, Fitzgerald has thrived with top- and bottom-tier quarterbacks, as evidenced by the most recent of his four 1,400-plus-yard seasons (2011) coming with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton at the controls. Fitzgerald is on track to retire second to Jerry Rice in career receptions (1,303) and receiving yards (16,279). The 11-time Pro Bowler's peak — a seven-touchdown '08 playoffs — was one of the great runs in postseason history, nearly lifting a middling Cardinals team ( 20th in DVOA that season) to a Super Bowl title.
Mind-blowing stat: Gates' 116 receiving touchdowns sit sixth all-time; they are 48 more than any other undrafted free agent's totaled in the draft era (1936-present).
Gates morphed quickly from Kent State basketball standout to the NFL's best tight end, ending his second, third and fourth seasons as a first-team All-Pro. The Chargers' post-Air Coryell peak occurred in the late 2000s, and their red-zone dynamo tight end resided as the centerpiece of those aerial attacks. The 16-year Charger's longevity allowed him to ascend to this tier, with only Jerry Rice totaling more seasons with at least seven touchdown receptions than Gates' 11.
Mind-blowing stat: Peterson won his first rushing title in 2008 and third in 2015; only he, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders have led the league in rushing seven seasons apart.
This era's premier running back produced one of the NFL's greatest seasons, his 2,097-yard 2012 that came months removed from ACL surgery, and he continues to build on a bulletproof resume. The former Vikings offensive centerpiece is this century's only four-time first-team All-Pro running back and, despite multiple significant injuries, is 783 yards away from the top five on the career rushing list. Peterson's teams never found consistent quarterback solutions, and his 1,042-yard 2018 showing on a Redskins edition that used four starting QBs further cemented his greatness.
Mind-blowing stat: When Tom Brady threw his 300th touchdown pass, his 115 interceptions were the fewest for anyone hitting that milestone. When Rodgers got there in 2017, he had thrown just 72 INTs.
Talented to the point of the Packers being scrutinized for their one Super Bowl appearance during his tenure, Rodgers may be a cut above his peers for sheer ability. The Packers' free-agency stinginess and attachment to the conservative Mike McCarthy probably limited Rodgers, but the two-time MVP should have several more years to bolster his legacy. Rodgers' efficiency stands alone, with the 35-year-old QB's 103.1 passer rating holding a comfortable all-time lead and his four seasons of at least 38 touchdown passes and single-digit interceptions residing in another galaxy.
Mind-blowing stat: This century’s top three tackles-for-loss seasons all belong to Watt; his 39 in 2012 are 11 more than anyone has totaled since 2000.
The Texans' wrecking-machine defensive end joins only Lawrence Taylor as three-time Defensive Players of the Year, and the 30-year-old phenom is the only player with multiple 20-sack seasons. Much of this dominance came with the Texans deploying Watt as an inside defender in their 3-4 scheme, separating him from the bulk of history's great pass-rushers. The five-time All-Pro's 2018 season — 16 sacks, a career-high seven forced fumbles — re-established a terrifying trajectory after two severe injuries, reopening the door to the historic potential Watt showed earlier in his career.
Mind-blowing stat: Brown reached 700 receptions in fewer games than anyone in NFL history (111), doing so despite a 16-catch rookie season.
Arguably the best wideout of this era and one of the most productive ever, Brown has secured a Canton legacy. The 2010 sixth-round pick’s Pittsburgh arrival coincided with a spike in Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers, with the two forming a top-flight combination. (Only Jerry Rice has more 1,500-yard seasons than Brown's three.) Brown's 2019 antics left him in a worse situation than the one he asked out of, but thriving in Oakland will remove any doubt about first-ballot induction.
Mind-blowing stat: Donald is the only pure defensive tackle since the 1970 merger to have earned first-team All-Pro acclaim four times in his first five seasons.
Much younger than his Tier 2 peers at 28, the Rams interior defender is on a fast track toward first-ballot induction. Pro Football Focus has slotted Donald (20.5 sacks in 2018 — most by a pure D-tackle in NFL history) as the league's best player in three of the past four seasons. The compact inside-rushing maven gives the Rams an unrivaled weapon and has a chance in 2019 to win an unprecedented third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.
Mind-blowing stat: Green is the only wide receiver in NFL history to have received a Pro Bowl invite in each of his first seven seasons.
Playing for one of the NFL’s lowest-profile franchises and aligned with a middling quarterback throughout his career, Green flies under radars. But the ninth-year wideout is firmly one of this decade’s premier players and, should he receive another contract extension, on track to finish his career as the second-greatest Bengal ever (behind only Anthony Munoz). While not as dominant as Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, Green (No. 4 in receiving yards since 2011, with 8,907) would likely have better numbers if partnered with Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan.
Mind-blowing stat: Among players whose careers began in the 21st century, Kuechly is the only one to boast more than one 160-tackle season. He has three.
Not yet 30, Kuechly figures to soon join select contemporaries from his era as a first-ballot lock. The do-everything middle linebacker broke up J.J. Watt’s Defensive Player of the Year run by winning the award in 2013, powered the 2015 Panthers’ 15-1 team (No. 6 defensively) and joins only Watt in being a five-time first-team All-Pro since 2012. While the eighth-year defender’s concussion trouble clouds his future, he has thus far evaded a career crisis and is on pace to become one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history.
Mind-blowing stat: Since 2014, Jones has recorded 7,994 receiving yards — the most of any NFL pass-catcher in a five-season span.
If Brown isn’t the 2010s’ top wideout, Jones is. The Falcons’ size-speed monster battled early-career injuries but has emerged as a surefire Hall of Famer and perhaps already the defining player in Falcons history. In addition to his regular-season dominance, the 30-year-old receiver has come up huge in the Falcons' biggest spots. Despite playing in just two NFC championship games, Jones is the only player to post multiple 180-yard receiving days in that round.
Mind-blowing stat: Miller has eight seasons featuring an elite (90.0-plus) pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus. No other active edge defender has more than five.
Miller’s blend of first-step quickness and deceptive strength place him on eventual course for a first-ballot induction. Although he does not have a Defensive Player of the Year award like J.J. Watt, Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack, Miller has 98 sacks (No. 4 all-time through eight seasons) and a postseason resume that outflanks his peers’. Miller's two-and-a-half sacks on Tom Brady powered the Broncos to Super Bowl 50, and his two-forced fumble Super Bowl MVP showing (to lift an offensively deficient team to a title) represents the standard for big-stage defensive impact.
Mind-blowing stat: In the draft era, only Hall of Famer Jim Otto has more Pro Bowls than Peters' nine among undrafted players.
Peters has been a starting tackle for so long, the quarterback he began his career protecting (Drew Bledsoe) and the one he now guards (Carson Wentz) were born 20 years apart. During Pro Football Focus' 13-season run, the advanced metrics site has given only Joe Thomas grades of 80.0 or higher in more seasons than Peters' eight, among tackles. Peters helped LeSean McCoy to two All-Pro honors, aided Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick to Pro Bowls and twice surmounted severe leg injuries to start for playoff teams.
Mind-blowing stat: Counting the playoffs, Roethlisberger was 27-4 during his first two years as a starter. That period culminated in the 2005 Steelers becoming the first road wild-card team to win a Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame lock and may warrant first-ballot induction, but Big Ben has not been as consistent as his top rivals. Roethlisberger entered his eighth season with only one Pro Bowl and threw for 20 TD passes just twice in that span. Elite defenses anchored his Super Bowl seasons. However, the two-time Super Bowl champ holds the most complete legacy of the 2004 QB class and has navigated persistent lower-leg injuries to keep the now-offensively powered Steelers a contender for most of his 30s.
Mind-blowing stat: Among defenders whose careers began after the implementation of free agency (1993), Suggs' 229 games with one team are the most of any front-seven player.
Thanks to his 2010s consistency, the Ravens’ warhorse pass-rusher is in his own stratosphere for Ravens sack artists; his 132.5 sacks lead all active NFLers by 34. Edge-rushers like Kevin Greene and Richard Dent had to wait years for induction, and Suggs going five full seasons in his 20s without a double-digit sack showing may hurt him. But his longevity and signature stretch — the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year award and returning from a torn Achilles to help the ’12 Ravens to a title — will give voters an easily identifiable apex.
Mind-blowing stat: With Thomas as their driving force, the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense for four straight years (2012-15). No defense had done that since the 1950s Browns.
This era’s supreme safety was the centerpiece of perhaps the 21st century's top secondary. The Legion of Boom’s Cover-3 principles depended on Thomas’ rare range, and what he meant to the Seahawks' franchise zenith has him on course for Canton. Injuries have restrained the 30-year-old defender lately, however, and his Ravens stay will be critical in determining how long he will wait (if a wait, in fact, commences) for his Hall of Fame door knock.
Mind-blowing stat: Vinatieri needed 345 games to break the all-time scoring record, doing it in 37 fewer contests than Hall of Famer Morten Andersen required to set the previous standard.
Responsible for maybe the most iconic kick in football history, the 46-year-old specialist is a lock to join Andersen and Jan Stenerud as Canton-enshrined kickers. The early-1990s South Dakota State recruit played at least 10 seasons for multiple franchises and owns four Super Bowl rings, two of which he secured after overtime-preventing game-winners. The three-time All-Pro has not shown a desire to call it quits entering Year 24 and will make a serious case for first-ballot induction.
Mind-blowing stat: Over the past 30 years, no NFLer has recorded more tackles in his first seven seasons than Wagner's 981. Wagner did this despite missing nine games.
The Legion of Boom is usually the first identifiable component of the Seahawks’ 2010s defenses, but Wagner remains as the unit's centerpiece and at 29 has a first-ballot ceiling. Seattle’s middle linebacker has been either the best or second-best off-ball ‘backer in football for years; his four first-team All-Pro honors trail Luke Kuechly by one. Wagner’s late-season return from a 2014 injury made for a defining defensive surge, with the Seahawks going from 6-4 to 14-4 and (perhaps) a Marshawn Lynch carry away from a repeat title.
Mind-blowing stat: Wilson's breakout streak as a passer came in 2015, when he threw 19 touchdown passes and no interceptions from Weeks 10-14. The five-game run of at least three TD passes and a 120 passer rating each week is the NFL's only such stretch.
One of the savviest draft choices in modern sports history, 2012's No. 75 overall pick has grown from a young complementary piece to one of the league's premier quarterbacks. In different seasons, the five-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in touchdown passes (34 in 2017), passer rating (110.1 in 2015) and quarterback rushing yards (849 in 2014). Steering a 2018 Seahawks team viewed as a rebuilding outfit to the playoffs, the 30-year-old QB is now Seattle's centerpiece player and has first-ballot potential.
Mind-blowing stat: Witten has 12 700-yard receiving seasons, trailing only Tony Gonzalez's 14 among tight ends. None of those slates included double-digit touchdowns.
One of the league's most reliable pass-catchers, Witten will return in 2019 with the fourth-most receptions (1,152) in NFL history. Constantly open for over-the-middle Tony Romo passes (and a Pro Bowler during the years before and after his primary quarterback's stay), the Cowboys' all-time great may well be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But his 68 touchdowns — more than 40 behind Gonzalez and Antonio Gates — may force voters to view him as a compiler and thus pause for a bit before green-lighting the 11-time Pro Bowler's invite.
Mind-blowing stat: Yanda was last beaten for a sack in Week 7 of 2015. He has played in 40 games and logged 1,767 snaps since.
With 16 games this season, Yanda can pass Jonathan Ogden (177 games) for the most contests played by a Ravens offensive lineman. It took Pro Bowl voters a bit to notice the stalwart guard's work, with the 2007 third-round pick not receiving an invite until 2011, but Yanda proved vital during the Ravens' run of six playoff berths in seven seasons (2008-14). Yanda's age-33 season back from injury in 2018 drew his worst Pro Football Focus grade; he was still the site's No. 4-rated guard.
Mind-blowing stat: Only one other defensive tackle, Hall of Famer John Randle, has more nine-sack seasons (seven) than Atkins’ five. Atkins is riding a streak of four such seasons.
Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy receive more attention after being top-five picks, but numbers-wise, Atkins has outproduced them coming out of a stacked draft for defensive tackles. The 2010 fourth-rounder has 71 sacks — the most of any pure D-tackle this decade and at least 15 north of both Suh and McCoy. The Bengals' No. 2 all-time sacker has been a top-caliber three-technique and at 31 has time to bolster his resume.
Mind-blowing stat: Despite missing 55 regular-season games in nine seasons, Berry has returned five interceptions for touchdowns. Among pure safeties, that mark sits third since the AFL-NFL merger.
After the 2016 season, Berry was on pace for a short Hall wait. His three return touchdowns (including the NFL’s first “pick-two”) propelled a good, not great, 2016 Chiefs team to the AFC’s No. 2 seed. Berry has three first-team All-Pro honors — two coming after he overcame cancer — but the currently unemployed safety has missed 29 of the past 31 games. Suddenly his Canton case is murkier.
Mind-blowing stat: Only Emmitt Smith has posted more 700-yard rushing seasons than Gore, with 14. Gore’s 13 such seasons lead every non-Smith running back by at least two.
Gore almost certainly will be enshrined, and his wait might not be long. The longevity the 36-year-old running back has displayed has lifted him to No. 4 on the career rushing list (14,748 yards), and the Bills giving him a chance at a 15th season will allow for more stat-stuffing. The issue here: He is more workhorse than star. Gore has zero first-team All-Pro honors and just one season (2006) with more than 1,300 yards.
Mind-blowing stat: From November 2013 to December 2015, Harris went 36 games without giving up a touchdown.
A rare breed as a top-tier boundary and slot cornerback, Harris has been the game’s best slot defender for so long (in an era featuring the position’s importance skyrocket) the four-time Pro Bowler can reasonably be called the all-time slot kingpin. The 30-year-old was the lead secondary cog on the Broncos' dominant 2015 Super Bowl defense and has been responsible for three of Pro Football Focus' 11 90.0-plus cornerback grades this decade. The analytics darling's profile will require more mainstream attention in the coming years for a strong Hall push, but being one of the few active players with a greatest-ever case at his job makes him a candidate in our view.
Mind-blowing stat: Kelce is just the second post-merger center to receive first-team All-Pro acclaim in back-to-back seasons after age 30, following Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson.
It took more decorated modern centers Dawson and Kevin Mawae seven and five tries, respectively, to get Hall calls, and Kelce is running out of prime years. However, he has two All-Pro honors, blocked for 2013 rushing champ LeSean McCoy and was a Super Bowl starter. Boasting a higher profile after Super Bowl LII, and having signed another Eagles extension, the elder Kelce brother, 31, has a chance to burnish his candidacy in the next few seasons.
Mind-blowing stat: Manning holds records for most completions (106) and passing yards (1,219) in a single playoffs, accomplishing this in the Giants' four-game 2011 journey.
Maybe the most polarizing player on this list, Manning will see his mediocre regular-season resume (four Pro Bowls, three 20-plus-interception slates, a rough recent road) cause many to call for his Canton exclusion. But the Giants quarterback's postseason log — toppling the unbeaten Patriots and piloting road conquests of four NFC Nos. 1-2 seeds en route to advanced-metrics lore — is historically impressive. Ranking top eight in career passing yards and touchdowns, coupled with the two Super Bowl MVP showings, will be enough to eventually book the younger Manning a Hall slot.
Mind-blowing stat: Newton's 10 rushing TDs in 2015 came with 35 passing scores — 14 more than any of the other six quarterbacks with at least 10 rushing TDs in a season.
The NFL has seen few players like Newton, who in eight seasons has rushed for 15 more touchdowns (58) than any other quarterback. Newton, though, has largely failed to disprove his intergalactic 2015 MVP showing was a fluke, having ranked outside the top 20 in QBR in each of the ensuing three seasons. Newton's shoulder injuries leave his post-age-30 career arc uncertain, and the former Heisman winner will need more quality seasons to warrant enshrinement.
Mind-blowing stat: Only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders match Peterson’s eight Pro Bowls through an age-28 season. Peterson earned one as a return specialist and seven as a cornerback.
With more Pro Bowls this decade than any other corner, Peterson was a lock for one of the first-team All-Decade 2010s team's slots — until his 2019 PEDs suspension. Although Peterson has shadowed No. 1 wide receivers more than his top contemporaries, advanced metrics do not quite view his best work as favorably as some of his top competition. Entering this season with questions about the validity of his past performance, Peterson suddenly has much to prove to get back on a surefire Hall of Fame path.
Mind-blowing stat: No post-merger center has received more Pro Bowl invites in a career's first nine seasons than Pouncey’s seven.
Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are frequently cited as the reasons for the Steelers' offensive boom over the past six years, but the franchise has featured top-flight offensive lines for most of that span. Pouncey's string of Pro Bowls coincided with Pittsburgh residing among the NFL's top offenses, and not yet 30, he will have a chance to accumulate more accolades in the post-Brown/Bell era. Bell has Pouncey and Co. to partially thank for his Jets payday, with his patient running style dependent on interior linemen keeping defenders at bay.
Mind-blowing stat: Rivers has made 208 straight starts. With three more, he will move into second all-time among QBs.
Long admired for his durability and regular-season production (sixth on the all-time touchdown pass list with 374, ahead of Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning), Rivers is still going strong at 37. Some tough endings to those stacked late-2000s Charger teams' seasons, and the Bolts' eight-year run of single-digit victories from 2010-17, have Rivers' profile lacking in prestige. The eight-time Pro Bowler will surely gain Hall of Fame entry, and what happens with this retooled Chargers nucleus could determine how quickly he will be inducted.
Mind-blowing stat: For a 16-game season, Ryan's 9.3 yards per attempt in 2016 is second all-time — behind only fellow MVP Kurt Warner in 1999.
Ryan's 2016 MVP season resides among the best by a quarterback, and had Kyle Shanahan opted to drain more clock in Super Bowl LI, it would obviously look better. The Falcons quarterback has four Pro Bowls (in 11 seasons), two conference title game appearances (more than Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and as many as Russell Wilson and Eli Manning) and sits third in passing yardage since entering the league. But aside from 2016, has Ryan been viewed as one of the league's best QBs? The 34-year-old still has work to do.
Mind-blowing stat: Over the past 35 years, only Ed Reed intercepted more passes in his first three seasons than Sherman (20).
The voice most associated with the Seahawks' ascent, Sherman surged onto the scene with three first-team All-Pro honors in his first three seasons as a full-time starter (2012-14). Sherman was probably that period's best corner and an essential part of Seattle's perennially stout defense, but until he can prove recovered from 2017's Achilles tear, his resume lacks longevity. The five-time Pro Bowler is now 31; his second 49ers season will be critical toward determining if a Hall of Fame route remains.
Mind-blowing stat: No defensive lineman has suited up for more games than Suh's 142 since 2010. Suh has averaged 935 snaps per season during his career.
One of the most grueling blocking assignments to step on a field this generation, Suh brings three first-team All-Pro distinctions and five Pro Bowls with him to Tampa Bay. The menacing defensive tackle has been one of the league's top run defenders, has registered at least 40 pressures in each of his nine seasons and has never missed a game due to injury. While his career has taken on a journeyman feel, the polarizing 32-year-old lineman (56 sacks) is probably not far from securing a gold jacket.
Mind-blowing stat: Whitworth's 13-year career has featured 63 games without the tackle allowing a quarterback pressure. Per Pro Football Focus, that leads the league since 2006.
Although Sean McVay deservedly receives most of the credit for transforming the Rams from the NFL's worst offense (last in points and yards in 2016) to one of the era's cutting-edge attacks, Whitworth following him to Los Angeles in 2017 is partially responsible. Because the longtime Bengals left tackle went six seasons without a notable accolade, his Hall of Fame case is complex. But Whitworth's four post-age-30 Pro Bowls and three All-Pro honors, along with his role on the McVay-era Rams, warrants strong consideration.
Mind-blowing stat: Beckham needed just 12 games to accumulate 1,305 receiving yards as a rookie. That works out to 108.8 yards per game. Since the 1970 merger, the closest receiver to that rookie-year figure is Anquan Boldin...at 86.1.
One of the flashiest receiving talents to ever enter the NFL, Beckham thrived from the jump in New York. His mercurial tendencies and recent injury trouble aside, the sixth-year veteran produced three straight 1,300-yard seasons and played a major part in helping a limited Giants offense to the 2016 playoffs. With intriguing circumstances in Cleveland, the 26-year-old superstar has a chance to mount a serious Canton case.
Mind-blowing stat: Bell’s 129.0 yards from scrimmage per game are the most in NFL history, bettering Jim Brown’s 50-plus-year-old standard of 125.5.
The combination of the games he missed due to suspensions, injuries and the 2018 holdout (34 absences through six seasons), and the high-volume workload the Steelers gave him when he was on the field (1,541 touches), put Bell in a tough spot. The two-time All-Pro is undoubtedly one of the game's most versatile backs, and at just 27, he has time to forge a Hall road. But now separated from the Steelers' elite offensive line, and entering 2019 119th on the career rushing list, Bell has a long way to go with the Jets.
Mind-blowing stat: The No. 1 overall pick in 2014, Clowney still grades as 247Sports’s highest-rated recruit of the 21st century. A true prodigy.
The Texans have stalled a Clowney extension for years and have seen fellow 2014 draftees Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack emerge as better players, but J.J. Watt's sidekick has posted back-to-back top-10 grades (among edge players) against the run, according to Pro Football Focus. The former South Carolina phenom overcame microfracture knee surgery and made three Pro Bowls by age 25. But with just 29 sacks in five seasons (163rd all-time for a player exiting Year 5), the Texans standout has plenty of work to do entering his prime.
Mind-blowing stat: Cox totaled 95 quarterback pressures (11 sacks, 24 QB hits, 60 hurries) in 2018; those were the most interior pressures PFF has ever charted for a player not named Aaron Donald.
Playing in the same era as Donald may hurt Cox's standing, but the eighth-year Eagle has Hall of Fame-caliber disruptive ability. (Look no further than how the Patriots blocked Cox on Brandon Graham's fateful Super Bowl LII sack-strip.) Bulkier than Donald, the Eagles defensive tackle possesses similar quarterback-harassing gifts. Cox outproduced 2018's Defensive Player of the Year in quarterback hits and hurries and has received invites to the past four Pro Bowls.
Mind-blowing stat: After a rookie-year ACL tear, DeCastro played his first full season in 2014. That season, the Steelers rocketed from No. 20 to No. 2 in offense. They've been a top-seven unit in the four years since.
DeCastro will need to stack accolades to reach the Hall, which is tough on guards. But he's the highest-ceiling offensive linemen the Steelers have deployed since their offense's mid-decade surge. The former first-round pick has two first-team All-Pro appearances and four Pro Bowls, and at 29 DeCastro will be a player to monitor for Canton consideration in the coming years.
Mind-blowing stat: Evans is one of just three players, along with Randy Moss and A.J. Green, to begin a career with five 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
One of the biggest wide receivers to enter the NFL, at 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Evans has 6,103 receiving yards through five seasons. That ranks sixth all-time, and the top five worked with All-Pro quarterbacks or passers who earned multiple Pro Bowl invites in that span. Jameis Winston has not offered Evans much stability, but the Buccaneers' top target can nonetheless place himself on the Canton radar in the coming years.
Mind-blowing stat: Kelce's first healthy seasons (2014-18) have produced the most receiving yards of any tight end in NFL history, 5,236, through the first five years of a career.
After microfracture surgery threatened his career as a rookie, Kelce immediately became the Chiefs' go-to aerial weapon upon debuting as their starting tight end in 2014. He has reeled off three straight 1,000-yard seasons and in his one slate with Patrick Mahomes finished with 1,336 yards — second all-time in a season for a tight end. The two-time All-Pro snatched Rob Gronkowski's best-tight end-alive belt last season, and given more time with Mahomes, Kelce will be a firm Hall of Fame candidate soon.
Mind-blowing stat: In the Cowboys' past two years without Frederick (2012, 2018), they faced the third- and eighth-most interior pressure. From 2014-17, the team was among the seven teams that faced the least interior pressure.
Of the Cowboys' standout offensive line trio of Frederick, Zack Martin and Tyron Smith, their center has the steepest climb toward the Hall of Fame. Despite booking Pro Bowl invites in his previous four healthy seasons, Frederick being diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder in 2018 hijacked his lofty career arc. But if the decorated snapper can return to his previous form, he will have a chance to become the best center of his era.
Mind-blowing stat: Gurley has scored 56 touchdowns. For a player in his first four seasons, that trails only LaDainian Tomlinson in this century.
Gurley follows 10 previous running backs who earned multiple first-team All-Pro honors in their first four seasons since the merger. Nine are Hall of Famers; No. 10 is Adrian Peterson. The engine for Sean McVay's Rams revitalization, Gurley has also found the end zone at a far more frequent rate (40 TDs, eight more than anyone else) during his back-to-back All-Pro seasons. Gurley's knee trouble may mean we have already seen the best of him, but if that isn't the case, he has begun a well-mapped voyage to Canton.
Mind-blowing stat: The only pure punter with more first-team All-Pro designations than Hekker's four: Shane Lechler, who played 18 seasons. Hekker is entering Year 8.
A punter infiltrates the list for good reason. It has not received much attention, because again, punter, but Hekker has gotten off to such a strong start that he may join Ray Guy as the Hall of Fame's second punter — assuming Lechler doesn't get there first. The only other active punter to receive more than two first-team All-Pro honors is Andy Lee, who has played eight more seasons than the Rams' 29-year-old specialist.
Mind-blowing stat: Hopkins has played six seasons, in which time the Texans have started 10 quarterbacks.
Besides his otherworldly jump-ball acumen, the distinguishing part of Hopkins' career has been his production coming despite a brigade of quarterbacks. The other wideouts on this tier have enjoyed QB continuity; Hopkins has seen the Texans turn to a different primary starter annually since he joined the team as a 2013 first-round pick. He has still produced four 1,200-yard seasons and bumped both Julio Jones (in 2017) and Antonio Brown (in '18) off their first-team All-Pro perches. If Deshaun Watson stays healthy, look out.
Mind-blowing stat: Only Luck and Matthew Stafford have thrown for at least 4,200 yards in four of their first six seasons; the former's four Pro Bowls quadruple the latter's haul.
Luck's career veered off course after he led the Colts to three playoff brackets, with offensive line issues and a botched shoulder surgery moving him off Hall of Fame radars. But after his 2018 return, which featured his best completion percentage (67.3) and the Colts building a rapidly retooled roster, the one-time prodigy has a second chance. In a strong position under Frank Reich, the soon-to-be 30-year-old passer still has a tantalizing ceiling.
Mind-blowing stat: Mack posted 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in his first season with the Bears. The 2018 Raiders registered 13 sacks (the lowest team total in 10 years) and five forced fumbles without him.
After becoming one of the league's best pass-rushers in Oakland, Mack turned the Chicago defense from good (ninth in 2017 points allowed) to great (first in '18). Joining Von Miller in primarily terrorizing right tackles, Mack is the first edge defender to earn three first-team All-Pro nods in his first five seasons since Reggie White. Just 28 and on the heels of four 10-plus-sack seasons, Mack is on one of the league's fastest Hall of Fame highways.
Mind-blowing stat: Martin in 2014 became the first rookie guard since 1939 (Detroit's Socko Wiethe, for those curious) to be named first-team All-Pro.
The Cowboys ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing in the four seasons prior to drafting Martin in the 2014 first round; they've finished in top 10 each year since, including in the post-DeMarco Murray/pre-Ezekiel Elliott 2015. Martin helped Murray and Elliott to a combined three rushing titles in five years, and he's now 5-for-5 in Pro Bowls. While Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are premier blockers, the Cowboys right guard is their highest-ceiling lineman.
Mind-blowing stat: Smith has allowed just six sacks over the past three seasons. Filling in for an injured Smith in 2017, Chaz Green matched that total in one game in Atlanta.
Although 2019 will be the Cowboys left tackle's ninth season, he will not turn 30 until December 2020. With six Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pros in tow, the athletic blocker should have plenty of time to build qualified Hall credentials. The longest-tenured member of Dallas' acclaimed offensive front helped set up the first instance of a team seeing two running backs (Murray, Elliott) win rushing titles in a three-year span since the merger.
Mind-blowing stat: Buoyed by a staggering 2016 season that featured a 10-of-10 success rate on 50-plus-yard field goals, Tucker has made an NFL-record 90.1 percent of his field goals. No one is within two percentage points of him.
The Ravens' Lamar Jackson experiment has a key weapon in Tucker, who has drilled 20 50-plus-yard field goals over the past three seasons. Tucker has thrived in the postseason as well, nailing a 47-yard try (in subzero wind chill) to give the Ravens a double-overtime win in Denver and hitting a decisive 38-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 34-31 Super Bowl XLVII win. The 29-year-old specialist has a best-kicker-ever ceiling.
Mind-blowing stat: Campbell has played two seasons with the Jaguars; he's responsible for the franchise's best (14.5 in 2017) and fifth-best sack slates.
Although Campbell has gotten better with age, his productive yet unremarkable start (six years without a Pro Bowl or All-Pro second-team honor) has him fighting uphill. The 12th-year defensive end's Jacksonville role is more conducive to sacks, and he's totaled 25 since heading east from Arizona. While regarded as one of the best all-around defenders over the past few seasons, the soon-to-be 33-year-old will need a few more great seasons to avoid the "Hall of Very Good" label.
Mind-blowing stat: Davis suffered ACL tears in three straight years (2009-11) but has missed just two games due to injury in the past seven seasons.
Near the end of a storied career, Davis (two Pro Bowls, one All-Pro appearance) probably does not have a sufficiently decorated resume to warrant serious Hall consideration. But the Panthers' all-time tackles leader (1,111), who also played through a broken arm in Super Bowl 50, became a medical marvel. He is now set to play a 15th season — for what looks like a stacked Chargers defense.
Mind-blowing stat: Graham posted seasons of 1,310 and 1,215 receiving yards as a Saint; no other New Orleans tight end has ever eclipsed 900 yards in a season.
Once looking set to battle Rob Gronkowski to become the 2010s' premier tight end, Graham could not sustain the pace upon being traded away from New Orleans. After nine seasons, Graham's 7,436 yards sit 12th on the tight end receiving list; his 71 touchdowns rank fifth. But nearing 33 and having battled injury trouble in recent years, it does not look like the former hoops standout will have enough time to mount a strong Hall pursuit.
Mind-blowing stat: Jackson has led the NFL in yards per reception four times, doing so with three different teams.
Jackson's talents may have been best-suited for another era. In today's high-percentage-pass NFL, which features a bevy of 100-catch seasons each year, Jackson (two seasons of 20-plus yards per catch) possesses a skill set that remains coveted but one that has him short on the necessary honors for legit Hall consideration. He sits 45th on the all-time receiving yardage list (10,261) and has caught just 53 touchdown passes in 11 years.
Mind-blowing stat: During a 2017 season that ended with Aaron Donald's first Defensive Player of the Year honor, Jones finished with more sacks (17) and tackles for loss (28).
One of this tier's players with upward mobility, Jones has yet to do enough to land on a clear Hall of Fame avenue. With two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro mention, the Cardinals outside linebacker has work to do. But with 77 sacks through seven seasons (10th all time), and being the rare player to improve after leaving the Patriots, the 29-year-old defender could work his way into Canton conversations with several more productive seasons.
Mind-blowing stat: The 2011 draft produced seismic pass-rushing talent, to the point Jordan's 71.5 sacks are only fifth in his own class.
Jordan's sack total through eight seasons ranks 40th all-time. His four Pro Bowl bids notwithstanding, the Saints' top pass-rusher has a lot of ground to cover to move into reasonable Hall of Fame territory. That said, the second-generation NFLer has never missed a game and at 30 will be operating with a raised profile thanks to the Saints' late-2010s defensive resurgence.
Mind-blowing stat: Kerrigan has 84.5 sacks — 14th for a player through eight seasons. There are not many non-Hall of Famers or future inductees above him on this list.
We come to one of the more interesting players on this list and a defender who, down the line, may test voters' recognition. Although most of his production has required NFL Sunday Ticket to witness, Kerrigan has the fifth-most sacks among active players and has been to four Pro Bowls. The soon-to-be 31-year-old outside linebacker has rewarded the Redskins, but entering 2019, he looks to be narrowly on the "Hall of Very Good" side of the legacy spectrum. But there's still time.
Mind-blowing stat: Lynch is 29th on the all-time rushing list, his 10,379 yards trailing the likes of Warrick Dunn, Tiki Barber and Thomas Jones.
For all the hype Lynch received for the four-year peak that doubled as the Seahawks' apex, the popular 33-year-old back may end up as one of the most famous "Hall of Very Good" members. Mixed into this celebrated career: four seasons (three of which before age 30) of fewer than 750 rushing yards. While it's impossible to tell the story of the NFL in the 2010s without "Beast Mode," and the night that reignited his career, he should be in for a long wait.
Mind-blowing stat: The 2013 Browns (4-12) had six Pro Bowlers, with Mack and Hall of Fame lock Joe Thomas representing the offensive line among that contingent.
After toiling for mostly awful Browns teams for seven years, Mack became a key component on the 2016 Falcons — who deployed one of the NFL's greatest offenses. He has six Pro Bowls and three second-team All-Pro placements but is nearing 34 and behind some centers in his own era. Considering how difficult it has been for modern snappers to earn Hall calls, Mack will need a stupendous finish to his career to climb enough rungs on this ladder.
Mind-blowing stat: Marshall holds the Bears' and Jets' single-season receiving yardage records and sits in the top 10 on both the Broncos' and Dolphins' lists.
Receivers often struggle transitioning to new teams; Marshall has proved to be the ultimate exception. He compiled 1,500-yard seasons in two cities, doing so after setting the NFL's single-game reception record (21) on the Kyle Orton-quarterbacked Broncos and putting on a Dolphins helmet in the third of his six Pro Bowls. Despite this superb mercenary work, Marshall sits 22nd in both career receiving yards and touchdowns — in the best era for padding stats in these categories — and appears a Canton long shot.
Mind-blowing stat: McCourty joins Charles Haley and Patriots safety mate Patrick Chung as defenders to start in five Super Bowls. Only Cornelius Bennett (six) has that beat.
One of the few constants on an evolving Patriots defense, McCourty has collected three Super Bowl rings and played in eight AFC championship games. Members of the second leg of this Patriots dynasty will be enshrined, but with McCourty boasting just two Pro Bowls, this is a tough sell. All-Decade first-teamers (and Super Bowl champions) Steve Atwater and LeRoy Butler have received scant Hall attention, so McCourty may be waiting a while.
Mind-blowing stat: Among players who have logged at least 2,000 snaps, Pro Football Focus rates McCoy as only its No. 12 interior defender since 2010.
Atkins' numbers (71 sacks to McCoy's 54) will hurt the longtime Buccaneers defensive tackle's cause, despite the latter's six-Pro Bowl resume. So do the Bucs' defensive struggles (No. 17 or lower in scoring defense in seven of McCoy's nine seasons) this decade. While the former No. 3 overall pick was Tampa Bay's alpha defensive lineman throughout the 2010s and has a good chance at an All-Decade second-team slot, the new Panther does not appear to be a Hall of Fame contender.
Mind-blowing stat: After 10 seasons, McCoy ranks just 31st on the all-time rushing touchdown list with 69.
McCoy (25th) stands four spots in front of Lynch on the career rushing yardage list, with 10,606 yards. While the Bills starter is in position to move up, that low touchdown number weakens the elusive runner's argument. McCoy's two All-Pro honors and six Pro Bowls work in his favor, but the 31-year-old with 2,821 career touches does not appear to have enough mileage left to work his way into much stronger position.
Mind-blowing stat: Among tight ends, Olsen's three 1,000-yard receiving seasons this decade trail only Rob Gronkowski's four.
Olsen's peak was decent, with two 800-plus-yard campaigns preceding the trio of four-digit showings, but it did not last long enough. Six sub-600-yard seasons and only three Pro Bowls appear on the 12-year veteran's resume, including the injury-marred 2017 and '18 slates. Cam Newton's top target may have a high-profile broadcasting gig in his future, but like Tony Romo, Olsen will probably fall short of the Hall of Fame as a player.
Mind-blowing stat: Smith was not honored for his 2014 season, but it's one of only four featuring a safety totaling at least five interceptions, three sacks and 90 tackles.
Smith still has some time to ascend into a stronger position in Hall of Fame debates and carries four Pro Bowls into his age-30 season. But the high-end Vikings safety is in that space between "Destined for Greatness" and Tier 3's polarizing veterans who have more defined Hall standings — not young or great enough for the former and not old enough for the latter.
Mind-blowing stat: Among active non-quarterbacks, only Larry Fitzgerald has started more games than Staley's 174 for the team that drafted him.
Although it is not unprecedented, as Jackie Slater showed, Hall of Fame tackles generally come with decorated All-Pro acclaim. Staley's 12-year career has included six Pro Bowls, a well-regarded advanced-metrics profile and a place as the Jim Harbaugh years' offensive line leader. But Staley (zero first-team All-Pros) being regarded as well off the Joe Thomas tier and slightly below the Jason Peters-Tyron Smith-Andrew Whitworth plane, the soon-to-be 35-year-old will likely miss out.
Mind-blowing stat: Only three players — Rod Woodson, Darren Sharper and Charles Woodson — have returned more interceptions for touchdowns than Talib, who has 10.
Talib's riveting run-after-INT ability and place as a starter on three championship-level defenses (New England, Denver, Los Angeles) will work in his favor. So will the physical man-to-man corner's five Pro Bowls and 35 career interceptions — most among active players. But the anonymous start to Talib's career in Tampa Bay, which began with five Pro Bowl-less years, likely will leave him with too much ground to cover as he enters his age-33 season.
Mind-blowing stat: Despite being tied with Von Miller for the most sacks since 2009 (98), Wake sits 35th on the all-time list.
Wake's late start (as a 27-year-old rookie) will make for an unusual case when his resume comes up in the voting queue, but at 37, he does not have much time to strengthen it. One of this generation's most efficient pass-rushers, with his pressure rate since 2009 second only to Miller's, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end has five double-digit sack seasons. Sacks are not everything for edge-rushers, but the CFL refugee-turned-Dolphin will need to pad his totals with the Titans to create a better argument.
Mind-blowing stat: Although he's missed the Pro Bowl in six of his 12 seasons, Weddle has graded as the best cumulative safety of the Pro Football Focus era (2006-present).
Among the players on this tier, Weddle may have the strongest claim to legitimate consideration. Only Earl Thomas matches his six Pro Bowls this decade, and the two-time All-Pro's 48-game Raven run did well to add a quality chapter for future voters to consider. Weddle will have a chance on a star-studded Rams team to add what could be a clinching argument, but at 34 and given the HOF's treatment of non-transcendent safeties, the 13th-year veteran may find himself on the bubble for a while.
Mind-blowing stat: The Redskins won three Super Bowls behind various iterations of their "Hogs" offensive lines, but Williams' seven Pro Bowls are the most by an O-lineman in franchise history.
Williams (one second-team All-Pro honor) is en route to landing where Staley will: a veteran tackle whose play has been regarded as a cut below his top peers. The nine-year Redskins blocker has played 16 games in a season only twice, with injuries and suspensions intervening. While absences have not interrupted Williams' run of Pro Bowls, a streak that included an invite after a 10-game 2017, this period has produced tackles more deserving of Hall consideration.