Who would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame if his career ended today?

Locks to make it …

Tom Brady

When eligibility for the hall is discussed, many drag out numbers: rushing yards, completions, receptions, etc. They'll talk about Pro Bowls made and MVP awards won. With this Patriots quarterback, only one number matters: three, as in Super Bowls won. This is a no-brainer.

Peyton Manning

No quarterback has had more 4,000-yard passing seasons than Manning (nine). His 45,628 yards are seventh all time. His current QB rating (94.1) is second behind Steve Young. He has been to nine Pro Bowls, won three MVPs and finally cleared the hurdle of winning a Super Bowl, leading the Colts past the Bears on Feb. 4, 2007.

LaDainian Tomlinson

It might seem strange to have a 30-year-old on the list. But the Chargers running back is tied for fourth in league history with 141 touchdowns, and his 126 rushing touchdowns are second to Emmitt Smith. He holds the record for touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in a season. Plus, he has rushed for 11,760 yards, more than Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson and John Riggins.

Walter Jones

Offensive lineman is the hardest position to define when you talk about the hall. Usually, you go by what the players say. And the players' voices are heard when it comes to Pro Bowl selections. The Seahawks tackle has made nine Pro Bowls, including eight straight from 2001-08. That's a Hall of Famer.

Randy Moss

Nine seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards, including seven of more than 1,200. Eight seasons of at least 10 touchdowns. But let's go beyond numbers. How could you not consider him one of the best big-play receivers in history? If you were starting a team over the past 10 years, he would be your first pick at receiver.

Tony Gonzalez

If he quit right now, he would go down as perhaps the best tight end ever. He is the position's all-time leader in receptions (916), yards (10,940), touchdowns (76) and receptions in a season (102). In 12 seasons he has 10 Pro Bowl berths and has been either a first- or second-team All-Pro nine times.

Ray Lewis

Just like Dick Butkus and Lawrence Taylor, the Ravens linebacker has been the dominant defensive player of his generation. Lewis is a 10-time Pro Bowl pick, six-time All-Pro, two-time defensive player of the year and a Super Bowl MVP. He might be one of the five best linebackers to have played the game.



The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted its 2009 class Saturday: Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr., defensive lineman Bruce Smith, guard Randall McDaniel, linebacker Derrick Thomas, cornerback Rod Woodson and receiver Bob Hayes. But what about the players in the league right now? Which ones would make the Hall of Fame if they never played another down? Which ones have more work to do? Here's our take.

You could make a case for …

Kurt Warner

His passer rating (93.8) is third in NFL history, and he has won two league MVPs. But he doesn't have awesome career numbers. Warner's prime reason for being considered is that he has taken two teams with dreadful pasts (Rams and Cardinals) to Super Bowls, winning with St. Louis. If we had a vote, we'd say yes.

Ronde Barber

He gets a yes vote from Bucs fans who are quick to point out he is one of just eight players in NFL history in the 20-sacks, 20-interceptions club. He has 11 defensive touchdowns, which is two behind the record of Rod Woodson. But his five Pro Bowl selections make him a tweener, as does him being tied for 97th all time in interceptions.

Orlando Pace

Again, it's an offensive lineman, and without numbers, it's hard to make a case. He has made seven Pro Bowls, which is more than Hall of Fame linemen Larry Little, Gene Upshaw and Joe DeLamielleure.

Adam Vinatieri

Depends on how you feel about kickers. Only one player who was exclusively a kicker is in the hall, Chiefs great Jan Stenerud. We're considering Vinatieri because he has won two Super Bowls with field goals in the waning seconds. But if we're electing kickers, then our first choice is former Oakland punter Ray Guy. How is he not in the hall?

Donovan McNabb

You don't think Hall of Fame when you think of the Eagles quarterback. But only 2 percent of his 4,303 passing attempts have been intercepted, the lowest percentage in league history. He has the third-best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history, and of active quarterbacks, only Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have better winning percentages. But if you had one game you absolutely had to win, would you want McNabb as your quarterback?

Still more work to do

Hines Ward: The argument could be made that Ward is a better all-around receiver than Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, two Steelers greats who are in the Hall. He is a big-play receiver who is among the best blocking receivers the game has ever seen. But is among the game's elite?

Terrell Owens: A head case, sure, but you can't deny he has had a dominant career. He's a six-time Pro Bowler who is sixth on the all-time receptions list with 951 catches. If he can string together another couple 80-catch seasons, his numbers will be too good to keep him out.

Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt: It's hard to think about one without the other. Bruce and Holt were teammates with St. Louis' Greatest Show on Turf from 1999 to 2008. Bruce is now with the 49ers, while Holt remains in St. Louis. Neither is a Hall of Famer yet, but if they can keep it going a little longer, both are going to finish in the top five all time in receptions.

Steve Smith: There are times when the Panthers receiver just might be the best in the game, but he simply hasn't done it long enough. He's 29 and has 509 catches in eight seasons — 351 that have come in the past four. If he can keep up this pace awhile longer, he might make it.

Dwight Freeney: The Colts defensive end is only 29 and already has 75 sacks in seven seasons. If he can double those numbers, that would give him 150 sacks. At this moment, only four players in NFL history have been credited with 150 sacks.

Antonio Gates: He's only played six seasons and the Chargers tight end has already been to five Pro Bowls and named All-Pro twice. In the past four years only three players have more TD receptions than his 51. He just needs to keep it going another five or six years and he will get in.

Richard Seymour: The Pats defensive end has played in five Pro Bowls and, even more impressive, has been named to four All-Pro teams. Some think he's the best defensive end in the game, and whenever anyone is considered the best at their position over a span of a few years, you have to give them Hall of Fame consideration.

More work to do

Hines Ward: The argument could be made that this Steeler is a better all-around receiver than Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, two Steelers greats who are in the hall. He is a big-play receiver who is among the best blocking receivers the game has seen. But is he among the game's elite?

Terrell Owens: A head case, sure, but you can't deny he has had a dominant career. He's a six-time Pro Bowl pick who is tied for sixth all time with 951 catches. If he can string together another couple of 80-catch seasons, his numbers will be too good to keep him out.

Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt: It's hard to think about one without the other. Bruce and Holt were teammates with St. Louis' Greatest Show on Turf from 1999 to 2008. Bruce is now with the 49ers, Holt with the Jaguars. Neither is a Hall of Famer yet. But Bruce is among the top five all time in receptions, and Holt likely will finish there.

Steve Smith: There are times when the Panthers receiver just might be the best in the game. But he hasn't done it long enough. He's 29 and has 509 catches in eight seasons, 351 in the past four. If he can keep up this pace awhile longer, he might make it.

Dwight Freeney: The Colts defensive end is 29 and already has 75 sacks in seven seasons. If he can double that sack total, that would give him 150. At this moment, only four players in NFL history have 150 sacks, which didn't become an official statistic until 1982.

Antonio Gates: He has played six seasons, and the Chargers tight end has been to five Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro twice. In the past four years, only three players have more touchdown catches than his 51. He needs to keep it going another five or six years.

Richard Seymour: The Pats defensive end has played in five Pro Bowls and, more impressive, has been named to four All-Pro teams. Some believe he's the best defensive end in the game, and whenever anyone is considered the best at his position over a few years, you have to give him Hall of Fame consideration.

Who would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame if his career ended today? 08/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 11:26pm]

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