ESPNs Future Candidates for the NFL Hall Of Fame #21-40

Reggie Bush

As has been posted all of this week (except for Wednesday), ESPN has compiled a list of 50 possible inductees into the NFL Hall Of Fame.  Today we focus on numbers 21 through 40; as in previous posts, you will see the candidate’s name, a brief analysis, and my recommendation.  Buckle up, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride:

Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago

Ask just about anyone knowledgeable about the defensive side of the ball who the best linebacker in the NFL is right now and you’ll often hear Brian Urlacher’s name pop up.  And with good reason – he has that rare combination of range and versatility (a younger version of Ray Lewis), has averaged 129 tackles (99 solo) per season, has been selected to six Pro Bowls in his seven seasons, and is one of only 5 players to be selected Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.  Not too shabby for a player drafted from what is not exactly a hotbed of pro football talent – the University of New Mexico.

Steve: Yes

Orlando Pace, OT, St. Louis Rams

A list of Pro Bowlers have Pace to thank for their success on the field: retired RB Marshall Faulk, RB Steven Jackson, former Rams QB Kurt Warner and current Rams starter Marc Bulger.  Pace, if he didn’t originate the “pancake” block, at the very least perfected it.  His size (6’7″, 325) often dwarfed his opponents most weeks and made it possible for the Rams to carry the moniker “The Greatest Show On Turf”.  Seven Pro Bowl selections in 10 seasons helps his cause, as well.  Assuming he remains healthy, he’s a first-ballot enshrinee.

Steve: Yes

Michael Strahan, DE, New York Giants

Forget his recent squabble with his current team (has since returned) for now.  LEt’s look at his overall body of work: he has been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times in 9 years (1997-2005), was the 2001 Defensive Player of the Year, and is one of only 4 players to have led the NFL in sacks more than once (including a record 22 1/2 sacks in 2001).  Those lofty achievements alone should get him inducted in Canton.

Steve: Yes

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Tony G has to be the reason that tight ends are now more of an offensive option on most NFL rosters.  His stats bear him out: the first (and probably last) TE to catch 100 passes in a season, is only 2 touchdowns away from being the all-time leader in TD recptions by a TE (Shannon Sharpe has 62), and already has 8 Pro Bowl apperances under his belt.  When his career’s done,  he will have broken most, if not all, of the TE receiving records out there.

Steve: Yes

Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts

Freeney, like Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, define what more than likely will be the standard of DE’s in the NFL.  Blessed with speed and an unequaled spin move which more than often than not allows him to sack the quarterback on a regular basis, Freeney, assuming he avoids further injury, may be on the fast track to Canton.  He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl three times in his 5 years, and has recorded at least 11 sacks every year but one (2006 – battling shoulder and leg injuries).  It also helps that the Colts have won a Super Bowl ring under Freeney’s watch.

Steve: Too early to say

Champ Bailey, CB, Washington/Denver

Bailey is what you would consider a prototypical CB: speed, football smarts, agility, big-play ability and by-the-book form.  The difference being is that he is better at his position than most CB’s currently in the league.  Since being traded to Denver back in 2004, Bailey has recorded 21 interceptions.  He was second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2006 (which isn’t easy considering the position he plays).  Only 28 years old, he has lots of years left in him to continue making an impact; he should be playing at an elite level for many more years to come.

Steve:  Too early to say

Derrick Brooks, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brooks could be considered a poor man’s version of Ravens LB Ray Lewis.  The thing that stands out with Brooks is that he has never missed a game in his career.  Not to mention that he has recorded 100+ tackles in each of the past eleven seasons, has been named a five-time first-team All-Pro player and received a Super Bowl ring back in 2002.  His consistency alone should be reason enough for Brooks to get enshrined after his retirement.

Steve: Yes

Warren Sapp, DT, Tampa Bay/Oakland

Sapp is an interesting case study.  He was a key to the Buccaneers’ stifling defenses in the late 90’s and early 2000’s; on the other hand, he suffered what could be considered sub-par years in Oakland his first two years there.  But he did record 10 sacks for a Raiders defense which was top-tier last season.  If a slimmer Sapp can return to his Bucs days in Oakland, then the possibility of him getting enshrined becomes greater.  But you cannot help but not overlook the “overrated” tag thta has dogged him for some time.

Steve: Maybe

Torry Holt, WR, St. Louis Rams

Currently one of the best wide receivers of this generation, Holt at his young age has quite an impressive resume going for him: Six Pro Bowl selections in his 8 seasons, was the first NFL player to accumulate 1,300 receiving yards for 6 consecutive seasons, reached the 600 reception level in only 107 games (2nd fastest in league history, and owns 2 of the 9 highest single-season receiving yardage totals to date (1,635 in 2000 and 1,696 in 2003).  Not to mention that he has the most receiving yards since 2000 (9,887).  This season, he has a knee issue to worry about; assuming he takes care of that, there’s no reason he cannot continue his usual pace and make secondaries around the league sick.

Steve: Probably (assuming his knee problem clears up)

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

Not quite sure what to make of Polamalu.  He possesses the instincts and speed to cover large chunks of the field.  He has also been selected to the Pro Bowl three times in his first 4 seasons, and was a key in the Steelers getting a Super Bowl championship recently.  Question that lingers:  his concussion issues – will they linger or just be just an old memory (no pun intended)?  Assuming he stays healthy, he has several productive years ahead of him.

Steve: Maybe

Randy Moss, WR, Minnesota/Oakland/New England

Moss is the NFL’s version of Madonna (good at re-inventing himself).  While with Minnesota, you couldn’t ignore his numbers or the fact that he was named to five Pro Bowls.  But he regressed after being traded to Oakland, where he was pretty much a non-factor while there.  If he expects to be inducted, he better get his act together in New England since this will probably be his best (and probably) chance to get a Super Bowl ring.  Despite all of that, Moss ranks fifth in career touchdowns and could possibly move into the top 20 in career receptions and top 15 in reception yardage this season.  Another dilemna – will the Voting Committee at the HOF look at Moss’ checkered off-seasons?

Steve: Maybe

Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens

Reed has the good fortune of playing for a team whose calling card is their defense, which can only benefit him.  He’s been selected to three Pro Bowls in his five years in the league, has averaged 65 tackles, 5.4 interceptions per season and has scored 7 defensive touchdowns in his short career.  All he needs is a Super Bowl to enhance his chances of getting inducted.  And he will turn only 29 on September 11.

Steve: Too early to say

Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints

88 recptions in his rookie campaign.  The agility, speed and hands to make him a threat on any given Sunday/Thursday.  Despite the obvious upside, Bush will have to be more productive in order to even get a sniff of Hall Of Fame consideration.  But he’s still very young and he will eventually replace current Saints RB Deuce McAllister as the featured back.

Steve: Too early to say

Ty Law, CB, New England/NY Jets/Kansas City

Law isn’t what one would consider a journeyman cornerback; as a matter of fact, you cannot ignore what he has done through his career thus far: he has led the NFL in interceptions twice, has been to 5 Pro Bowls, has 6 postseason INT’s, and is owner of several Super Bowl rings (all of them with New England).  And he is the active career leader in INT’s (50 thus far).  A tough call for sure.

Steve: Maybe

Terrell Owens, WR, San Francisco/Philadelphia/Dallas

The positives on T.O.: he ranks fourth in career receiving touchdowns, and has been named to 5 Pro Bowls.  His receiving yardage is HOF-worthy, assuming he can be his old self for at least a couple more seasons.  Now the negatives: his baggage.  My mind says that he should get inducted but the off-the-field stuff may hinder his chances initially.  He should get in but not neccesarily on the first ballot.

Steve: Probably

Edgerrin James, RB, Indianapolis/Arizona

Edge is an interesting candidate in that he left a team that had an above-average offensive line (Indianapolis) and bolted to a team that is a work in progress (Arizona).  Whether that decision hurts his induction is hard to say right now.  But you can’t ignore this: 10,385 rushing yards in nine years, with 3,056 receiving yards.  Perhaps a couple more 1,000+ yard seasons will get him in, but will the Cardinals offensive line allow that to happen?  He also recently turned 29 (which is old for RB’s in the NFL).

Steve: Maybe (YES if he reverts to the Colts version of himself)

Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

We know that Palmer is talented….ridiculously talented.  He has thrown for 78 touchdowns in only three seasons, with only 43 interceptions.  Assuming he remains healthy for the remainder of his career, he should get inducted into the Hall.  A Super Bowl ring would be nice as well, although that’s a tall order considering the team he plays for.

Steve: Too early to say

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans

Obscenely talented physically, Young simply has to work on his quarterbacking skills.  He needs the Titans to stock the squad with some offensive talent in order for Young to maximize his already-awesome talents.

Steve: Too early to say

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit LIons

Hey people, ESPN threw this name out there, not me.  What I can say about Calvin is this: he has the obvious physical tools and makeup to quite possibly become an elite wide receiver in the NFL for may years to come.  And the Lions’ offense, under Lions offensive coordinator, should prosper (especially Johnson) as the ball will be thrown early and often.  But Johnson hasn’t taken a snap yet, so it is entirely too early to all of a sudden call Canton and have a bust of Calvin made.

Steve: Too early to say

Tomorrow:  #41-50

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