Yesterday I submitted ESPN’s list of their top 50 candidates for the Pro Football Hall Of Fame (one through ten yesterday). Today, numbers 11 through 20; just like yesterday, I will provide a brief analysis, followed by my recommendation.
Shawne Merriman, LB, San Diego Chargers
Merriman reminds me of a young Lawrence Taylor (size and speed), but the question lingers: will he recover from last year’s suspension for steroids? Or will he recover and have his usual Merriman-type of year? Only time will tell as he is still relatively young. With the steroid issue still fresh in most people’s minds, it is too early to say if Merriman gets in.
Steve: Too early to say
John Lynch, S, Tampa Bay/Denver
One of the hardest-hitting and toughest safeties in the league today, Lynch has been to eight Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay, and helped the Broncos go to the AFC Championship Game back in 2005. Despite his impressive credentials, I find this one to be a tough call. If he does get in, it will not be a first-ballot selection.
Alan Faneca, G, Pittsburgh Steelers
One of the more durable O-lineman in the league, Faneca has missed only two games since he was drafted back in 1998. He has a Super Bowl ring in his possession and has been selected to the past 6 Pro Bowls. He is squawking about leaving the Steelers after this season, which may or may not hinder his chances of getting enshrined. He is one of the best O-lineman in the league today.
Steve Hutchinson, G, Seattle/Minnesota
Durable and consistent. That describes Hutchinson and his career thus far. He is, in my opinion, the best guard in the NFL today (with the Steelers’ Alan Faneca just behind him). Ask Shaun Alexander, Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor why they are so successful and I’m sure they’ll mention Hutchinson in their conversations. He’s been to four Pro Bowls in 6 years and has been an All-Pro selection 3 times. He’s the highest paid guard in the league today and with good reason.
Brian Dawkins, S, Philadelphia
In my opinion, one of the best “shut’em down” safeties around. And he still has some gas left in his tank. Dawkins has been to the past six Pro Bowls and has participated in an Eagles-record 13 playoff games. An interesting fact about Dawkins: he is the only player in league history to have recorded a sack, a touchdown reception and a fumble recovery in a single game.
Walter Jones, OT, Seattle
One would think that by missing the majority of four training camps in the prime of a career would make a player suffer, skill-wise. This would not be the case with Jones. He paved the way for Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander to rush for 1,880 yards and 27 TD’s during Seattle’s 2005 season. Not to mention his six selections to the Pro Bowl. He’s what you’d consider the modern day version of Art Shell in his prime while he was with the Raiders.
Jason Taylor, DE, Miami
Taylor can do it all – pass rush, stop the run and even drop into coverage if need be. He’s been selected to five Pro Bowls in 10 seasons (would be going to more if not for the fact that he plays for Miami), and was last season’s league Defensive Player of the Year. He has scored 7 defensive touchdowns and is the Dolphins’ career leader with 106 sacks. Despite Miami’s lack of postseason participation, I think that will be overlooked after the Hall Of fame Voting Committee looks at his total body of work.
Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle
Alexander has rushed for over 1,400 yards three times in his career and set (since broken by Chargers RB LaDanian Tomlinson) the record for rushing TD’s with 27. He already ranks ninth in career rushing TD’s (96) and is a 3-time Pro Bowl selection. The only downside is his recent foot injury and whether that will slow him down.
Steve: Yes (Maybe if injuries persist)
Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina
He’s what I call a freak on the defensive line. He has what few quality defensive ends possess: a combination of speed, size and the will to win. He has, in his still-young career, racked some pretty impressive stats: double-digit sack totals in four of his 5 seasons, and 17 forced fumbles. Already the Panthers leader in career sacks (53.5), Peppers is just getting warmed up as he should have quite a few more productive years ahead for him. Oh – he’s been selected to 3 Pro Bowls.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego
You thought Chiefs’ TE Tony Gonzalez was good? Well he is, but Gates ha spassed him by as the NFL’s best tight end. And why not? He has averaged over the past 3 years 80 catches, a tick under 1,000 yards/season and 11 TD recptions/season. Those people are wide receiver numbers. And with the cast he has surrounding him in San Diego, you can probably expect more of the same. Assuming he remains healthy, he’s a lock for enshrinement.
Tomorrow: # 21-30