The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced during the NFL Honors Show on Saturday night, so I thought it’d be the perfect time to talk about who I would vote for if I had one, which I don’t. A quick thing to note about the rules of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there’s a minimum of 4 inductees and a max of 7 per year so I’m going to follow those rules.
Ray Lewis-LB-Baltimore Ravens
Resume: 13x Pro Bowler, 7x All Pro, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXXV MVP
Ignoring the murder investigation for which he was never found guilty of, Ray Lewis was one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time. He was knocked for his height and lack of speed coming out of college at Miami (FL) and he made evaluators pay for it by smacking every offensive player he could find in the mouth. He was the stalwart in the middle of the Ravens defense for 17 seasons and was not only the face of the Ravens, but he may have been the face of defense in the NFL. For those too young to remember peak Ray Lewis, he basically was to defense in the early 2000’s what JJ Watt is to defense now. He was that good and he was good well into his late 30’s. He was the definition of what it means to be a bad dude in the NFL.
Terrell Owens-WR-San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals
Resume: 6x Pro Bowler, 5x All Pro, 1078 catches, 15934 yards, 153 TD’s
How T.O. didn’t get in on either of his first two tries is beyond me. In my opinion, after Jerry Rice, he’s the greatest wide receiver of all time. Sure he was also the biggest diva who ever played the position and basically gave wide receivers the diva reputation all by himself (he got some help from Chad Johnson/Ochocinco), but his talent was undeniable. He was bigger, faster, and stronger than every DB he went against and he put up the numbers to show for it. He’s second all-time in receiving yards (though Larry Fitzgerald is right on his tail), he’s eighth in catches, and third in receiving touchdowns. Owens may have been a locker room cancer, but as far as ability and performance goes, there was nobody better.
Randy Moss-WR-Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers
Resume: 6x Pro Bowler, 4x All Pro, 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 982 catches, 15292 receiving yards, 156 TD’s, NFL record 23 receiving TD’s in 2007
After T.O., I think I would put Randy Moss as the third greatest receiver to ever play the game. He set the NFL on fire in 1998 as he formed arguably the greatest receiving duo of all time with Hall of Famer Cris Carter as the two of them helped revive Randall Cunningham’s career and nearly led the Vikings to Super Bowl XXXIII if not for a missed Gary Anderson field goal. He continued to torment opposing secondaries until his trade to the Raiders, where abysmal quarterback play nearly derailed his career. However, a trade to the Patriots and an alliance with Tom Brady resurrected Moss’ career as he set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches and helped the Patriots to an undefeated regular season in 2007. Moss was a diva, not quite on par with T.O., but he was also one of the most dominant receivers the game has ever seen.
Brian Dawkins-S-Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos
Resume: 9x Pro Bowler, 4x All Pro, 37 interceptions, 26 sacks
Look up “enforcer” in the dictionary and you’ll get a picture of Brian Dawkins. He’s the gold standard for safeties that will not only get his team absolutely fired up before a game, but then back up that fire by blasting his opponents in the mouth. Dawkins was about as well-rounded a safety as there ever was as not only was he the last guy runningbacks wanted to see coming their way, but he was also a nightmare for quarterbacks as he had excellent coverage skills to boot. If an aspiring safety is smart, he will model his game after Brian Dawkins.
Edgerrin James-RB-Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks
Resume: 4x Pro Bowler, 1x All Pro, 1999 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 3028 carries, 12246 yards, 80 TD’s
When the Colts drafted Edgerrin James 4th overall in 1999 instead of Ricky Williams, people went ballistic. A lot of them had never even heard of James and blasted Bill Polian for taking him over the Heisman-winning Williams, whom Mike Ditka traded his entire draft class to acquire for the Saints. James shut the naysayers up REALLY quick, as he rushed for over 1500 yards as a rookie and over 1700 for an encore performance. While Williams went on to have a solid career, albeit a controversial one, it appears that the Colts had made the right selection, as having James to lean on was critical towards Peyton Manning developing into the second greatest quarterback of all time.
Isaac Bruce-WR-St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers
Resume: 4x Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XXXIV Champion, 1024 catches, 15208 yards, 91 TD’s
Isaac Bruce may be the most under-appreciated receiver in NFL history. Here’s a guy who finished his career second all time in receiving yards and is a member of the 1000 catch club. Bruce was arguably the best receiver on the Greatest Show on Turf Rams teams from 1999-2001 and I think one of the main reasons he didn’t get the respect he deserved was because of the emergence of the younger Torry Holt. Bruce also was never in the media too often which may be why guys like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss got a lot more publicity than him even though their numbers were comparable. Bruce has already been left out a couple of times already and it’s high time he got the recognition he deserved and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
John Lynch-S-Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos
Resume: 9x Pro Bowler, 2x All Pro, Super Bowl XXXVII champion
My final Hall of Famer, John Lynch is currently the GM of the 49ers but before that he was one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. He anchored the great Buccaneers defenses of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and was a crucial part of their run to a Super Bowl championship in 2002. Like Dawkins, Lynch was a complete safety, who could not only lay the lumber, but was a guy whose zone was often avoided by quarterbacks. And he even became a decent broadcaster in his own right. Lynch really did it all as a safety in the NFL.
I’d be doing an injustice if I didn’t mention that there was one more player that I wanted to include on my unofficial ballot, but I had hit my 7-man maximum so he just missed the cut. Brian Urlacher is also very deserving of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Often rivaling Ray Lewis as to who was the best linebacker of the 2000’s, Urlacher was not only a great physical presence, but he was smart, too, as he was in charge of the playcalling with the defense as far as audibles were concerned. That’s going to do it for my Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot, let me know who you’d choose for enshrinement in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.