With the Hall of Fame class of 2017 already presented, there aren’t a whole lot of fans that are currently appreciating the unique talent before them. While veteran athletes have gone out and have overachieved on a weekly basis, some may earn the right to be considered for a golden jacket. Who will be considered in the years to come? Here is a look at top player at each position that will be debated within time:
Quarterback: Tom Brady , New England Patriots
I don’t think even Brady’s harshest critics can debate that he will not be in the Hall of Fame someday. At the current age of 40, Brady has evidently gotten better somehow over the years. While he sits as the only quarterback to ever win five Super Bowls, many have regarded the fifteen-year veteran as possibly the greatest at his position to ever play the game.
Prior to Super Bowl 51, Brady has gone on record that he is desiring to play for years to come. While he has broken just about every record within the NFL for a quarterback, what more does he need to prove? Brady is unlike any other quarterback in the history of the league, and it would be foolish to consider him anything less than first-ballot material.
Other Notable Names: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning
Running Back: Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
While this may be his first year in New Orleans, NFL fans will always remember the impact that Peterson had with the Minnesota Vikings. Ranking seventeenth all-time in terms of rushing yards, Peterson will likely finish his NFL career with 13,000+ yards on the ground when all is said and done.
While Frank Gore, who is two years older than Peterson, may have more total yards on the ground, Peterson will always be viewed as the more explosive scorer, and the better overall player. After all, how many players can you name that tore their ACL one year, and then proceeded to lead the league in rushing yards in the next?
Other Notable Names: Frank Gore
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Having been a part of the Arizona Cardinals franchise since 2004, wide receiver veteran Larry Fitzgerald has done more than enough to receive a golden jacket. Leading the NFL in receptions in 2005 (103) and 2016 (107), Fitzgerald currently sits third on the list of all-time receivers.
The ten-time Pro-Bowler has reached the Super Bowl on one occasion, but the Pittsburgh Steelers came away with the victory that year. All in all, the wide receiver position is arguably one of the most physically demanding positions in the NFL, and Fitzgerald has done it for thirteen years already, while only missing a total of eight games.
Other Notable Names: Anquan Boldin
Tight End: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
With 1,089 receptions during his fourteen-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, Witten only sits behind Tony Gonzalez (1,325) in terms of most receptions by a tight end. While that number is only a portion of what Witten has done for the Cowboys, it should be noted that the 35-year old veteran has only missed one regular season game, and it was due to a broken jaw against the Arizona Cardinals in October of 2003.
Playing with fractured ribs, sprained ankles, and even rumored concussions, Witten has essentially put his body through everything in order to play the sport he loves. The two-time All-Pro tight end has earned his spot in not only the Hall of Fame, but as one of the most consistent tight ends to every play in the NFL.
Other Notable Names: Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski
Offensive Line: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
In the modern era, there have been 44 offensive linemen inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. With that, hasn’t Joe Thomas earned his place? While he has been part of the laughing stock that is the Cleveland Browns for his entire career, Thomas has proven to be one of the most elite pass-protectors and run-blockers on a yearly basis.
With eight All-Pro honors and ten Pro-Bowl selections, Thomas has done more than what a few current Hall of Famers can claim to have accomplished. At the age of 32, Thomas has shown almost no signs of regression during his career with the Browns.
Defensive Line: Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers
After starting his career out with the Carolina Panthers in 2002, the pass-rusher has gone on to impact the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers as well, before ultimately returning home to the franchise that originally drafted him out of North Carolina. During his fifteen years so far in the NFL, Peppers has secured 143.5 sacks, which is enough for fifth all-time, and is more than any other active player in the league.
While he has made his presence known throughout his career, Peppers has also been named to the Pro-Bowl nine times, and was honored with All-Pro honors three times. When you think of Julius Peppers, you think of dominance off of the end of the defensive line, as his time will surely come to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Other Notable Names: J.J. Watt
Linebacker: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens
Having played for the Baltimore Ravens since 2003, Suggs has put in more than enough to be recognized by the NFL Hall of Fame. Securing 10+ sacks in one season is impressive, but Suggs went on to accomplish that in six different seasons with the Ravens. While playing alongside greats such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, no one can deny that Suggs has proven to be a fearless outside linebacker within the NFL on an annual basis.
Accumulating 539 tackles and counting over the course of his career, Suggs currently holds the most compelling case in the NFL when it comes to the Hall of Fame for active linebackers. Will he reach it, or will Suggs be viewed as just an outstanding defensive stud?
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins
Many expected to see Darrelle Revis at the face of this segment, but what most don’t realize is that Hall has been much more consistent. Forcing 43 interceptions since 2004, Hall has been able to secure himself a spot in the discussion of who should be elected into the Hall of Fame.
While I would never grant Hall as a first-ballot selection in the future, I do believe he has done enough to at least be debated. Compared to all of the other noteworthy defensive backs in the Hall of Fame, DeAngelo Hall belongs within the same sentence as them.
Other Notable Names: Darrelle Revis
Safety: Reggie Nelson, Oakland Raiders
Reggie Nelson may not be a name that pops out for many, but he has proved himself year after year within the NFL. Spending time with both the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, and Oakland Raiders, Nelson even went on to lead the league in interceptions in 2015 with eight.
With a combined 38 forced turnovers since his debut with the Jags in 2007, Nelson will likely call it a career by the end of the 2017, as he is set to become a free agent. The defensive back has provided a lot of years of service to the league, and it’s only right that he’s considered within the Hall of Fame in due time. While it’s unlikely that he will receive a golden jacket in the near future, his case is more valuable than any other active safety in the league.
Other Notable Names: Eric Berry