Who are Today's Future NFL Hall of Famers?

Matt Crossman - SportingNews.com

So with five former players and a 50-year owner joining the Hall of Fame on Saturday, let's look at some of the men currently playing the game who likely will join them someday.

And let's also take a peek at some of the guys whose candidacy might not be such a sure thing, and who still might need to do a little more (or maybe a lot more) to make it happen.

And, no, you won't see Vince Young's name on either list.

First, the locks for enshrinement.

Tom Brady:

Three Super Bowl in four seasons.

That's all Tomy Brady needs on his resume. Even if he never takes another snap, he's in.

Of course, Brady is likely to add to his exploits before he calls it quits. And that will serve only to further cement Brady's credentials for first-ballot entry into Canton.

Peyton Manning:

Though plenty of quarterbacks who won only one Super Bowl title haven't gotten in -- and won't ever get in -- without buying a ticket, Manning's 11-season run of excellence makes him a no-brainer addition to Canton, regardless of the balance of his career.

Manning has won three league MVP awards, and he's on pace to own every record that Brett Favre established during his career. With the possible exception of the all-time interception mark.

LaDainian Tomlinson:

In only eight NFL seasons, Tomlinson has become both a yardage machine and, more significantly, a touchdown machine. Few players have demonstrated the nose for the end zone that Tomlinson possesses.

With 126, Tomlinson already has scored more rushing touchdowns than any player in NFL history not named "Emmitt Smith," with more carries that hit paydirt than the likes of Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, and Marshall Faulk.

If he can manage 39 more rushing touchdowns, Tomlinson will claim the top spot.

Whether he can get to that point (and, more interestingly, whether he does it as a member of the Chargers) remains to be seen. Even if he doesn't, his status among those current and future Hall of Famers is enough to get him there, too.

Factoring in receiving touchdowns, Tomlinson also is tied for fourth place on the all-time touchdown list, with a chance at finishing second behind only Jerry Rice's 208.

Ray Lewis:

One of the best linebackers in league history continues to add to credentials that already are more than good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame on the first try.

Apart from the Pro Bowls (10) and the first-team All-Pro selections (six), Lewis widely is regarded as the consummate leader, a man who gets those around him to give all that they have.

So, basically, if he doesn't get in on the first try, no one should.

Tony Gonzalez:

Another 10-time Pro Bowler who's destined for Canton is Gonzalez, who holds all of the tight end career receiving records.

So with no disrespect intended to the seven tight ends already in the Hall of Fame, Gonzalez has accomplished more than any of them.

He's another first-time, no-brainer member.

Now, let's look at the guys who might get there, might not, or might have to wait a while.

Kurt Warner:

Warner's case for enshrinement got considerably stronger last year, when he vaulted from the second spot on the depth chart to his third career Super Bowl.

But even with two league MVP awards and a Super Bowl MVP trophy on the mantle, Warner's numbers need a little beefing up.

Two more seasons with Larry Fitzgerald (and, for now, Anquan Boldin) should do the trick.

Terrell Owens:

T.O. will have the numbers to justify enshrinement. He has a great chance at finishing in the top five in receptions and receiving yards. And he's already one of the top-five touchdown scorers of all time.

But the havoc he has wreaked on multiple franchises will undermine his individual numbers. Football remains a team sport, and Terrell Owens rarely has been a team player.

Though the voters aren't supposed to consider off-field misconduct when considering whether a player is worthy of enshrinement, it's fair game to hold against a guy the fact that he held himself above his teammates.

And so there will be some lively debates when the time comes to take up T.O.'s case for Canton. The fairest outcome might be to make him wait as long as Art Monk waited, if not a year longer.

Adam Vinatieri:

Only one pure kicker has been enshrined in Canton, Jan Stenerud.

But only one kicker has made as many clutch and decisive kicks as Adam Vinatieri, with three Patriots Super Bowl wins coming by three points -- and two of them secured by late-game field goals.

So while Vinatieri might never finish in the top 10 in all-time scoring (he's currently 15th; Stenerud is only tenth), Vinatieri has done more to shape the fate of a franchise with one leg than most players have accomplished with their entire bodies.

Edgerrin James

Quietly, running back Edgerrin James has amassed Canton-worthy credentials. Already, he has more rushing yards than Hall of Famers John Riggins, Thurman Thomas, and Franco Harris. If/when he signs with a new team, James could eventually pass Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Jim Thomas, and Tony Dorsett -- and future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.

The question is whether, without a Super Bowl title on his resume, James has done enough to ultimately get the attention of the voters.

Arguably, he has. And, arguably, once the voters start looking at his decade of production, they'll realize he deserves a spot alongside the other all-time great running backs.

Kevin Mawae:

Since they generate no statistics, it's always a challenge for offensive linemen to make it into the Hall of Fame. For centers, who generate few if any highlights of crushing blows while pulling during sweep plays or pancake blocks of would-be quarterback sackers, it's even more challenging.

All of the post-merger centers to make it (Mike Webster, Jim Langer, Dwight Stephenson, and Jim Otto) bolstered their cases by playing in at least one Super Bowl each, and by spending all of their careers with only one team.

Kevin Mawae has no Super Bowl appearances during a 15-year career that has spanned three different franchises -- the Seahawks, the Jets, and the Titans. But he appeared in six straight Pro Bowls with the Jets (from 1999 through 2004), and he made it back there again in 2008.

At best, Mawae is on the borderline. Getting to a championship game would help his case considerably. Without it, there's a chance it will take a while.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.


More football news

More sport news

Sports home

Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion