(mandatory photo credit: Marc Bona / Cleveland.com)
Written by: Joseph Yun
The 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be revealed on the annual “NFL Honors” program this Thursday night at 9 PM EST / 6 PT.
The 15 finalists were announced in December, notable names such as Devin Hester, Zach Thomas, Richard Seymour, and Reggie Wayne dot the list. The rules state that a minimum of four but a maximum of eight can be elected in any given year.
Who will be enshrined into eternal glory among their elite peers in Canton? Who will fall just short of election? I give my predictions!
ATH Devin Hester
- The most terrifying return man in the modern era and probably the pound-for-pound best player on his teams. Hester was an electrifying athlete who kept opposing special teams coordinators up at night with 19 total return touchdowns (14 punt, five kick). He also maintained an 11.7 ypc in punt and 24.9 in kick returns. The former Hurricane was required viewing for any NFL fan every time he had a return. DH made both the 2000s and 2010s All HOF teams along with four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. For his career, he has an astounding 14,455 all-purpose yards on returns alone! While he wasn’t particularly special on offense, he was used in that role. The modern-day Godfather for versatile athletes like Deebo Samuel, Tyreek Hill, and of course, Cordarrelle Patterson. He will get in with relative ease despite his “meager” contributions on offense. Hester was that brilliant on special teams to overcome any naysayers.
EDGE DeMarcus Ware
- The former Troy standout split his career between the iconoclast Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, winning a title with Denver. The Yellowhammer State native could’ve had a compelling case based on his Dallas career alone where he posted 117 of his 138.5 career sacks that rank good enough for ninth all-time since sacks were counted in 1982. Every player above him minus two are Hall of Fame enshrinees and the two (Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs) will get in when they are eligible. Unofficially, he would rank 13th overall in sacks. Assisting his case is that several players behind him like Lawrence Taylor, Rickey Jackson, and Derrick Thomas have been in for years. Winning a Super Bowl title really aids the cause as well. He was a model of consistency as he never fell below six sacks in any given year while in Dallas and started 173 of a possible 178 games. A nine-time Pro Bowler with four All-Pros to his credit.
LB Zach Thomas
- Thomas was the forerunner to the era of undersized tough-as-nails linebacker we're in. He defined the position of inside or "Mike" linebackers for an entire generation alongside Derrick Brooks. A recipient of seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pros during an outstanding 13-year career. He is Mr. Dolphin to many Phinatics and outside observers. The quintessential ILB posted a whopping 1,734 tackles, averaging about 130 a season with a peak of 165 in 2006. He also had 17 forced fumbles and 48 passes defensed. The former Red Raider has had to wait a few years to get in but he gets enshrined this year.
WR Torry Holt
- Third time the charm? Holt was often billed as the "other" receiver alongside the potent Isaac Bruce. He will likely join his "Greatest Show on Turf" colleagues Kurt Warner, Bruce, Orlando Pace, and Marshall Faulk in Canton this year in his third consecutive attempt as a finalist. Holt was consistently great in his 11-year career, posting 8 seasons of at least 1,100 yards, a hit rate of 72%, compared to Bruce's 50% in 16 campaigns. He posted 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns on 920 receptions in his career.
WR Reggie Wayne
- Another inductee getting in on his third attempt as a finalist? The former Colts legend is due to get in at some point and the ring that he won helps his case greatly. He was a one-club player as well. The six-time Pro Bowler played 14 years and posted 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns. He’s tenth all-time in both receptions and receiving yards and a large majority of those above him are already in. While he often didn’t get the top billing on his own team until after Marvin Harrison retired, he was still one of the best receivers in the league for many years. Canton could have a distinct Miami flavor to the proceedings this summer as Hester, Wayne, and Andre Johnson was part of some great Hurricanes teams before making their way to the pros.
“Maybe not this year but soon”
CB Ronde Barber
LB Patrick Willis
EDGE Jared Allen
WR Andre Johnson
DL Bryant Young
S LeRoy Butler
- Of this lot, Allen has the most potential to be a lock to get enshrined due to statistical proximities on the all-time leaderboard. He will for sure get in at some point within the next two years as the eligible EDGE class thins out a bit more. Johnson will have to wait a couple more years as voters are notoriously loathsome to induct receivers early in their eligibility for whatever reason. He has an excellent case to get in on the first try if you consider the gargantuan disadvantages he faced with horrendous quarterback play. Barber ranks in the top ten for all-time tackles and is the second-highest defensive back in that regard. He also won a ring during his time with Tampa Bay. Barber is in his fifth year of eligibility and could get in soon due to his lengthy career and talents. What hurts him is the falling off that the Bucs endured after the legacy players left like Lynch, Brooks, and Sapp but his play didn’t. Willis had a relatively short career spanning eight years but he went to the Pro Bowl in seven, named to five All-Pro teams. He defined an entire generation of linebacker play in his career. Joining Willis as a Niners legend is Bryant Young. He has been woefully underrated during his whole career and deserves to get in. The longtime stalwart of the 49ers defense has awesome numbers for an interior lineman with 89 sacks. He played both inside and outside during his time and won a ring as well. Lambeau Leap creator Butler was a very good safety and defined the position in the 1990s. The ultra-versatile defensive back is the only member of the 20 sack and 20 interception club. The glut of deserving safeties like John Lynch, Troy Polamalu, and Steve Atwater is starting to thin, and that only helps the thrice-time finalist.
“Hall of Very Good”
OT Tony Boselli
OT Willie Anderson
LB Sam Mills
DL Richard Seymour
- Boselli is a case of short but great prime. He’s forever a finalist it seems but his career wasn’t good or long enough to merit any serious consideration. Anderson has the longevity part down but his resume is a bit light compared to other tackles but he was still great for some bad to good Bengals teams. Seymour has the rings on his side but can you really tell the story of the league with him playing a crucial role? I don't think you can. Yes, Mills has the numbers and legacy to back him up but was he a generational player? No, but he absolutely belongs in the just short of induction category.