Today, the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will meet in Dallas and debate the Class of 2011. They will discuss 15 modern-era nominees as well as senior committee nominees Chris Hanburger and Les Richter. Four to seven new Hall of Famers (and no more than five modern-day nominees) will be elected and announced this evening. A breakdown of the finalists under discussion:
Running back (1993-2005)
"The Bus" put up huge rushing numbers — 13,662 yards (fifth all time) and 91 touchdowns (tied for 10th). But he was one-dimensional: a between-the-tackles grinder. He caught only 200 passes in his career, and 57 of those came in his first two seasons. His place on the all-time rushing list will eventually get him into the Hall.
Final call: This is Bettis' first time on the ballot, so he likely will have to wait, especially with Marshall Faulk also under consideration.
Wide receiver (1988-2004)
When Brown retired in 2004, he had 100 receiving touchdowns, 1,094 receptions and 14,934 receiving yards. That placed him in the top three of each of those categories. Brown's issue is that there is a backlog of wide receivers, and he didn't make it last year because Jerry Rice went ahead of him — and deservedly so.
Final call: There is still a logjam at receiver with Cris Carter and Andre Reed also on the ballot. Brown has Hall of Fame numbers, but it wouldn't be surprising if he has to wait one more year.
Wide receiver (1987-2002)
Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins
Carter has been passed over three consecutive seasons, and it's inexplicable. He caught 1,101 passes for 13,899 yards, and his 130 touchdowns are eighth all time and fourth among wide receivers.
Final call: This should be the year that Carter gets in.
It's difficult for voters to wrap their minds around offensive linemen. There are no stats, really, to compare them to other players. All you can say is he was a seven-time Pro Bowl player and widely regarded as the best center of his generation.
Final call: Part of the problem is voters have been kind to Steelers in the past, but Dawson had the misfortune of playing during an era when the Steelers weren't playing in many Super Bowls. He deserves induction, but he probably won't get there this year.
Defensive end (1983-97)
Bears, 49ers, Colts, Eagles
For some reason, Dent has been lost in the shuffle, and it's possible that he has been away from the game so long that voters forget how dominant he was. Dent, who had eight seasons of at least 10 sacks, including a 171/2-sack season in 1984, is tied for sixth all time in sacks with 1371/2.
Final call: Dent is a Hall of Famer, but it's possible he could get put on hold again. Chris Doleman and Charles Haley also are on the ballot, and voters might not even elect one defensive end-type.
Defensive end/linebacker (1985-99)
Vikings, Falcons, 49ers
Unless you're a fan of him or the teams he played on, you likely don't know that Doleman is fourth all time in sacks with 1501/2. Only Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Kevin Greene had more. In 1989 alone, Doleman collected an eye-popping 21 sacks. He was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was a two-time first-team All-Pro.
Final call: So far, Greene hasn't gotten in, proving that sacks alone don't get you into Canton. Doleman is on the ballot with two other sack machines in Richard Dent and Charles Haley, so it's possible they'll all cancel out each other.
Running back (1994-2005)
One of the most versatile running backs in NFL history is making his first appearance on the ballot. Faulk is 10th on the all-time rushing list with 12,279 yards, but he also caught passes for nearly 7,000 yards and scored 136 touchdowns, which is seventh on the all-time list. A seven-time Pro Bowl player.
Final call: If anyone deserves a first-ballot induction, it's Faulk. Look for him to get in on his first try.
Defensive end/linebacker (1986-99)
A member of five Super Bowl champions, Haley was one of the best pure pass rushers in NFL history. His 1001/2 sacks do not place him among the top 20 in NFL history, but his career was cut short by injuries. Some question whether he was a one-trick pony: a phenomenal pass rusher who did little else.
Final call: His numbers are really good, but are they Hall-worthy? He might never get in.
He had 19 interceptions in his career and made nine Pro Bowls and was a four-time first-team All-Pro in 14 seasons as a member of the solid Redskins teams of the 1970s. He was the defensive player of the year in 1972 when the Redskins advanced to the Super Bowl.
Final call: You never can tell how the senior nominees will do. We're going to guess he is better than 50-50 of getting in, and he would deserve it because he truly was one of the best at his position during his era.
Defensive tackle (1990-2000)
Kennedy was the 1992 defensive player of the year even though his team went 2-14 that season. The former Hurricane was an eight-time Pro Bowl player and so good that the Seahawks abandoned their 3-4 defense to build a 4-3 around Kennedy. He was primarily a run stopper, yet he still managed to rack up 58 sacks. He matched Reggie White and Bruce Smith as the only defensive linemen with eight Pro Bowls during the 1990s.
Final call: A semifinalist in 2008 and a finalist the past two years, Kennedy has waited his turn and should be inducted this year.
Running back (1995-2005)
One of the most underrated running backs ever. It's hard to believe his 14,101 yards are fourth all time and well ahead of greats such as Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Tony Dorsett. He scored 90 rushing touchdowns, and the lone knock against him isn't his fault: He never played on a Super Bowl-winning team.
Final call: If it were any other year, Martin might get the call. But if there's one running back going to be inducted in this class, it's likely Marshall Faulk.
Wide receiver (1985-2000)
There is no question that he was one of the game's top receivers. But halls of fame are often about numbers, and two numbers seem to be holding Reed back. He didn't catch 1,000 passes (he caught 951), and he was well short of 100 touchdowns with 87. Still, his overall numbers are better than those of Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Steve Largent and Michael Irvin.
Final call: Wide receiver is always a crowded position when it comes to the Hall, and this year is no different, especially with Cris Carter and Tim Brown on the ballot. Reed gets shut out again.
Richter, who died last summer at age 79, played linebacker and was an eight-time Pro Bowl player. He never missed a game and even spent time playing offensive guard and kicker.
Final call: Again, you never know with nominees of the veterans' committee, but there's a good chance Richter will make it.
The monster of an offensive tackle earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl and was on the NFL's All-Decade team in the 1990s and 2000s. Quite simply, one of the best linemen of his era. But there's the rub: He was a lineman, and it's hard to quantify linemen.
Final call: It's Roaf's first year on the ballot. He seems a good candidate in the future, but it's unlikely he will get in on his first go-around.
Founder and president of NFL Films
If anyone deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, it's Sabol. Working out of his little startup production company outside of Philadelphia, Sabol helped bring the NFL into our homes with the creation of NFL Films. In the 1960s and 1970s, the only way most of us even saw highlights of other games was through NFL Films.
Final call: Sabol and NFL Films changed the way we view football. It would be a crime if he is not inducted.
Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens
Because of his trash talk and outrageous antics, we lose sight of the fact that Sanders was one of the best cover cornerbacks in NFL history. His peers made him an eight-time Pro Bowl player, and he was a six-time first-team All-Pro and a defensive player of the year. On top of that, he was one of the best returners in history.
Final call: Maybe Sanders' loud personality will turn off some voters, as well as his bouncing around the league while also playing baseball. It's going to be close this year, but we're going to say he gets in.
Tight end (1990-2003)
His numbers suggest he is a lock as a tight end. He made eight Pro Bowls. He is second all time among tight ends with 10,060 receiving yards. So why isn't he in already? Well, some think he really wasn't a tight end but a receiver who lined up next to the tackle. And his numbers don't come close to the Hall of Fame receivers.
Final call: If voters actually consider Sharpe a tight end, then he is headed to Canton. But don't be surprised if he gets the cold shoulder one more year.