As we approach the 2020 NFL season, this may be the last campaign for select players. While the NFL Hall of Fame is an exclusive club, which players are destined for enshrinement? Here, we discuss which active players are locks for the Hall of Fame:
*Note: All players selected are based on their production ahead of the 2020 season, not their Hall of Fame resume*
Starter: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees has been a force ever since joining New Orleans, putting up multiple seasons with 5,000+ passing yards. He is a First Ballot Hall of Fame talent, and it would be difficult to disagree. However, it’s not his past that makes him my starter. Instead, it’s his continued success into his age 41 season. In 2019, Brees totaled 2,979 passing yards, and tied for the fifth-most touchdown passes (27). In all, he accomplished this while being limited to just four interceptions. Brees continues to impress late into his career, and doesn’t show significant signs of slowing down.
Backup: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Many would expect Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady to take the starting position on this team, let alone make the roster. However, Rodgers has a handful of advantages over Brady going into the 2020 season. Most obviously, Rodgers is seven years younger. When viewing the 2019 statistics, Rodgers put up two more touchdowns (26) and four less interceptions (4) than Brady. While Brady is joining a new team himself, Rodgers has established himself as the centerpiece of the Packers organization for years, making him more likely to find success this season.
Starter: Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
On the field, Peterson has had a remarkable career. His seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro nominations led to 1,042 rushing yards in 2018 at the age of 33. Ranked fifth in all-time rushing yards, this came after serving suspensions and career-threatening injuries. His 898 rushing yards last season is an outlier from his typical production, but at the age of 34, Peterson is still a reliable member on an inconsistent Redskins team.
Backup: Frank Gore, New York Jets
Can you think of a running back who has had more longevity than Frank Gore? Ranked third in all-time rushing yards, Gore has compiled nine seasons with 1,000+ yards. While last season resulted in a dip in production (599 rushing yards, two touchdowns), Gore should still be considered a valued member of the New York Jets offense.
Starter: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
With a career average of 96.2 receiving yards per game, Jones’ placement on the list is justified. With a total of seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nominations, he has only missed the 1,000-yard mark twice in his career to date. At the age of 31, he remains as one of the most dominant players in the NFL.
Backup: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Fitzgerald, 36, managed to total 804 receiving yards last season under a new offense. As an 11-time Pro Bowl talent, he also received the 2016 Walter Payton Man of The Year award. He holds the record for most receiving yards in a single postseason, which further justifies his placement on this list.
Starter: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After retiring in 2018, Gronkowski made a surprise return to the NFL in order to join Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. Prior to coming back, Gronkowski was already considered a Hall of Fame talent. Coming back for a 2020 season should only help his case for Canton.
Backup: Jason Witten, Las Vegas Raiders
Speaking of new teams, Witten joining the Raiders is going to a weird sight. Much like Gronkowski, Witten elected to come out of retirement for the Dallas Cowboys last season. After an underwhelming 529 receiving yards, Witten is far from his prime. However, there is plenty of hope for this Hall of Fame lock.
Starter: Jason Peters, Free Agent
How could you make this list without ‘The Bodyguard’? With nine Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nominations, age seems to be catching up slowly with a lingering injury concern for Peters. Still, that didn’t stop him from holding defenders to three sacks against him last season. At the age of 38, Peters has proven he can be a staple for any team.
Backup: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
As one of the best run-blocking centers in the NFL, Kelce deserves recognition. In the last two seasons, he has only allowed a total of two sacks. In addition, his Super Bowl speech is one for the ages.
Starter: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Not only could Donald be considered the best individual player in the NFL for 2020, but he’s been one of the most productive in each of the last three seasons. In all six seasons he has been apart of, Donald has been named to the Pro Bowl. With a peak of 20.5 sacks in 2018, Donald should be considered an early lock for the Hall of Fame.
Backup: J.J Watt, Houston Texans
With five Pro Bowls and All-Pro nominations, Watt has been a presence since entering the NFL in 2011. The combination of injuries, as well as Donald’s production as of late, prevents him from being the starter. Still, seven forced fumbles and 16 sacks in 2018 shows that Watt is still a force on the defensive front.
Starter: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
He may not have eye-popping sacks, but Wagner is still a phenomenal talent. One with a hard to find skill set at the position. With five All-Pro nominations, Wagner led the league in tackles in both 2016 (167) and 2019 (159). As a coverage defender, it’s not a stretch to consider Wagner as a Hall of Fame talent.
Backup: Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Not many defensive players can say they have won a Super Bowl MVP and totaled double-digit sacks in all but two seasons, but Von Miller can. At the age of 31, Miller has been named to the Pro Bowl in every year dating back to 2011 (aside from 2013, due to injury). His Hall of Fame case is rather obvious, as his production remains consistent entering the 2020 season.
Starter: Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers
As the former face of ‘The Legion of Boom’, many speculated whether Sherman could remain productive outside of Seattle. With his fifth Pro Bowl nomination in 2019, Sherman has remain as an elite cornerback talent. With plenty of time before retirement considerations, Sherman continues to make his case for Canton.
Backup: Earl Thomas III, Baltimore Ravens
Recent controversy may take away from from Thomas’ seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nominations, but that would be a mistake. Once viewed as a major piece of ‘The Legion of Boom’, Thomas has remained as an elite member of the secondary for the Baltimore Ravens. Coming off another Pro Bowl season, there is a lot more to hope for before we consider his Hall of Fame case.