In addition to Tomlinson, former defensive stars Jason Taylor and Brian Dawkins are on the ballot for the first time. Though both players have a Hall of Fame caliber portfolio, it seems unlikely that they will get the call in their first year of eligibility.
Among the other modern era candidates, former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Joe Jacoby is the closest to falling off the modern era ballot, which would significantly reduce the likelihood that he will be inducted in the near future. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if the two-time first team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler will generate enough support to earn a gold jacket.
More likely to earn induction than Jacoby is a group of former stars who have been on the ballot for a handful of years while waiting for other deserving players to clear a HOF path.
Former “Greatest Show on Turf” teammates Isaac Bruce and Kurt Warner are both on the ballot for the third time. While there have been some to question whether Warner is deserving of the Hall of Fame, it seems likely that he will ultimately get the nod. It would be fitting for Warner and Bruce, who caught 1,024 passes for more than 15,000 yards during his career, to be selected in the same class.
Another receiver who will certainly eventually earn a gold jacket is the flamboyant Terrell Owens. With 1,078 career catches, 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns, Owens unquestionably has the numbers to earn a spot, however, given his toxic reputation, the voters may choose to leave him sitting for at least another year before putting him in the Hall.
For some reason, Hall of Fame voters historically tend to gravitate towards selecting offensive linemen while being tougher on skilled position players.
Joining Jacoby as offensive linemen on the ballot are three players who will all likely eventually earn a HOF spot. Perhaps the most controversial of these picks is Tony Boselli. The three-time first team All-Pro and five time Pro Bowler was unquestionably among the best players in the league during his career, but because injuries limited him to only six full seasons he could be waiting a while before heading to Canton.
Center Kevin Mawae was a three-time first team All-Pro and eight time Pro Bowl selection during his 16 year career. For most of his career, six-time first team All-Pro Alan Faneca was considered to be the best at his position in the league and it would be no surprise if he earns selection in his second year on the ballot.
Much like Boselli, Terrell Davis has struggled to earn a gold jacket primarily because his career was cut short by injuries. Though the top four seasons of his career are comparable with many of the all-time greats, Davis has been punished because he did not have longevity. It will be a true shame if this former Super Bowl MVP who averaged 105 yards rushing per game over a four-year stretch and is one of only seven players to eclipse 2,000 yards in a season, continues to be denied a spot in the HOF because he didn’t have a prolonged period of average that is often the case for players who have extended careers.
Though I consider the remaining players on the modern era ballot, Ty Law, John Lynch and Morten Andersen, to be slightly below the others in terms of being HOF worthy, it would be no shock if at least one of these players (most likely Lynch) snuck into the 2017 class.
Former coach Don Coryell deserved to be selected long before his death in 2010 and has been a finalist four times since. Given that this is the third straight year that Coryell is among the final 15, he must have some solid support among voters, so it will be interesting if they can convince enough voters to put him in this year.
Among those nominated through the veterans and contributors process, I feel the group this year is especially weak, but all will likely earn a HOF spot.
Until former Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer is selected the veteran’s committee should just go away. Kenny Easley was a great player during his seven year career, but the former Seattle Seahawk was not better than other defensive backs who are not in the Hall of Fame, including Johnny Robinson, Dick Anderson, Jake Scott, Cliff Harris and Lemar Parrish.
The contributors on the final ballot are longtime owner Jerry Jones and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Tagliabue is a finalist for the fourth time, but first since 2009. That would seem to be a signal that he will definitely earn a spot this time around.
This marks the first time as a finalist for Jones and you can already see how his impending selection is being spun. He is being portrayed as the only owner to win three Super Bowl titles in his first seven years owning the team. Little is being mentioned that he has subsequently gone over two decades without as much as getting his team into the conference championship game.
As I have said in years past, the Hall of Fame is still trying to recover from the incompetency of the selectors from the late 1990s and 2000s when they ignored many worthy candidates while picking minimal classes most years.
In recent years the selectors have done a better job maximizing the class sizes. Since 2010, every class has included at least six people and the last two have featured the maximum number of eight.
My expectation is that the 2017 class will include at least six and likely again have eight inductees.
If I had a vote, I would select only five modern era players (the maximum number allowed) while not choosing either contributor nominee or the senior nominee. My five selections would be: Tomlinson, Bruce, Davis, Faneca and Coryell.
However, it is more likely that all three of the extra candidates will be chosen and that they will be joined by Tomlinson, Warner, Bruce, Mawae (or possibly Owens or Lynch) and Faneca.
It will certainly be interesting to see the final results and watch the new inductees enjoy their trip into football immortality.