Sampling players who played in the 1976, 1986, and 1996 seasons, history shows us that about 45 future Hall of Famers will be playing at any given time. So we’ll use that as the estimate for the number who were likely on the field, from young guys to those about to call it a career.
Let’s try to assess the likelihood of those who played this year of eventually reaching Canton, based on their performance to date and historical precedent.
Today, we’ll start with the wide receivers and tight ends. I would estimate that about 5-6 wide receivers and 3-4 tight ends playing this last season will eventually be in Canton.
LARRY FITZGERALD (100%)
13 Seasons, 10 Pro Bowls (2nd most all-time among receivers), 1 All-Pro
Larry Fitzgerald keeps going, not showing signs of slowing down in Arizona. After a period of uneven quarterback play and looking like he was going to be passed on his own team by Michael Floyd, Fitzgerald is still there and Floyd is now gone. A decade of pro bowl selections should have Fitzgerald–flawless on the field and off so far–sweeping into Canton soon after he is eligible.
Most Similar WRs: Tim Brown*, Charley Taylor*, James Lofton*, Cris Carter*, Andre Reed*, Andre Johnson+, Paul Warfield*, Fred Biletnikoff*, Steve Largent*, Harold Jackson
ANDRE JOHNSON (90%)
13 Seasons, 7 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pros
Andre Johnson’s last few years were forgettable, but he was one of the best wide receivers in the league in his prime. The receiver position is going to lead to some debates–he and Steve Smith could split votes as we’ve seen with Harrison, Carter, etc., but he should get in comfortably.
Most Similar WRs: James Lofton*, Cris Carter*, Fred Biletnikoff*, Charley Taylor*, Paul Warfield*, Steve Largent*, Steve Smith+, Andre Reed*, Torry Holt+, Harold Jackson
STEVE SMITH (85%)
Smith had a great career, and once people compare the quarterbacks he played with to other Hall of Famers, he should find himself in Canton. He will also be a quote machine in retirement and likely ever-present, which won’t hurt with voters.
13 Seasons, 5 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pros
Most Similar WRs: Harold Jackson, Fred Biletnikoff*, Wes Welker+, Andre Johnson+, Henry Ellard, Don Maynard*, Cris Carter*, Michael Irvin*, Art Monk*, Cliff Branch