The Pro Football Hall of Fame will welcome seven new members–Morten Anderson, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jerry Jones, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson and Kurt Warner–to Canton as part of the 2017 class. It’s an impressive group, and they undoubtedly deserve their time in the spotlight, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead.
2018 has a handful of intriguing potential candidates, ranging from those who were finalists but didn’t make the cut in 2017, to players who will be eligible for the first time. Here’s a look at the most notable names who will be vying for election in February:
Finalists From 2017
Tony Boselli, Tackle
Isaac Bruce, Wide Receiver
Don Coryell, Coach
Brian Dawkins, Defensive Back
Alan Faneca, Guard
Joe Jacoby, Tackle
Ty Law, Defensive Back
John Lynch, Defensive Back
Kevin Mawae, Center
Terrell Owens, Wide Receiver
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner
In 2017, there were 15 modern-era finalists. The first five eliminated from consideration were Bruce, Coryell, Faneca, Jacoby and Owens, while the next batch of eliminations removed Boselli, Dawkins, Law, Lynch and Mawae. The remaining five all received the necessary 80 percent of the vote and were enshrined. Tagliabue, along with Jerry Jones, was a contributor finalist but didn’t get 80 percent of the vote.
TO has to be the most intriguing name from this list. A finalist two years in a row, he has the numbers that would suggest an obvious Hall-of-Fame induction, as he ranks second all-time in receiving yards, third in receiving touchdowns and eighth in receptions. During an 11-year span from 1998 through 2008, he had 16-game averages of 87 receptions, 1,291 yards and 13 touchdowns.
There is speculation, however, that he hasn’t yet been voted in because of what he did off the field, where he was a divisive and controversial figure who often served as a locker-room distraction.
“But that’s what’s so ridiculous to me, to be frank, because don’t tell me that you’re going to make him wait two, three years, five years, whatever it is, simply because you felt he was a bad teammate, but he’ll get in, you’ll vote for him at some point,” said ESPN’s Jim Trotter. “If you’re not willing to vote for him now you shouldn’t be willing to vote for him in five years. He should be judged simply on his merits, in my opinion, and I’m not one of those people who believe in sending messages.”
Owens should ultimately get in, but it’s going to be interesting–and frustrating–to see how much longer he has to wait.
1st-Year Eligible Players
Ronde Barber, Defensive Back
Matt Birk, Center
Donald Driver, Wide Receiver
Steve Hutchinson, Guard
Ray Lewis, Linebacker
Randy Moss, Wide Receiver
Jeff Saturday, Center
Richard Seymour, Defensive Lineman
Brian Urlacher, Linebacker
Lewis is the most obvious candidate to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Anchoring some of the best defensive units of all-time, he finished his 17-year NFL career with 13 Pro Bowl nods, seven First Team All Pro selections, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and two Super Bowls.
“Ray Lewis will not only be remembered as one of the greatest to play his position, he will also be thought of as one of the greatest players in NFL history,” said Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome. “And, he is one of the greatest without a doubt.”
Moss is also a good bet to go in on his first ballot. One of the most terrifying, athletic specimens of all-time, he tallied 982 receptions (15th all-time), 15,292 receiving yards (third) and 156 receiving touchdowns (second). His 23 receiving touchdowns in 2007 remains a single-season record.