Who's ticketed for Canton?   

Updated: August 2, 2007, 4:23 PM ET

  • Comment
  • Email
  • Print
  • Share


By Thomas Neumann and Scott Symmes

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
16 16 8 10 13 63

11. Brian Urlacher

Brian Urlacher
Depending on whom you ask, Urlacher might be the best defensive player in the NFL today. He boasts a rare combination of range and versatility that have him on the fast track to Canton. An impact player since his rookie season, Urlacher has a long list of accomplishments, including six Pro Bowl selections in seven seasons. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, making him one of only five players to have claimed both honors. Excluding his injury-shortened 2004 campaign, Urlacher has averaged 129.1 tackles (99.3 solo) per season during his career.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
17 16 14 5 10 62

12. Orlando Pace

Orlando Pace
Orlando Pace and pancakes. The two have been synonymous since before Pace was the first player taken in the 1997 draft. Pace has contributed mightily to the success of Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson and provided consistent protection to Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger en route to seven Pro Bowl selections in 10 seasons. As talented as the Rams were in 1999, it's difficult to imagine them winning the Super Bowl without Pace making sure that the stationary Warner stayed upright.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
18 16 10 4 14 62

13. Michael Strahan

Michael Strahan
Mind the gap? Indeed. Strahan is one of only four players to lead the league in sacks more than once, including a single-season record 22½ in 2001. (Of course, Deacon Jones reportedly had 26 in 1967, before the category was officially recognized. But we digress.) Strahan is the active leader in career sacks (we'll consider him active until he announces his retirement), and he was selected to seven Pro Bowls in a nine-season span from 1997-2005. The rugged Strahan also didn't miss a game from 1996-2003 and was the 2001 Defensive Player of the Year.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
20 16 10 2 13 61

14. Junior Seau

Junior Seau
Seau has been punishing ballcarriers and quarterbacks since 1990, when many of today's stars had yet to begin puberty. Drafted fifth overall by the Chargers, Seau is the only 1990 first-rounder still active in the NFL. He's recorded more than 100 tackles eight times, has 53 career sacks and was named to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1991-2002. Seau was named to the 1990s All-Decade team by the Hall of Fame and has been named first-team All-Pro six times.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
18 16 8 8 11 61

15. Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez
The first notable hoopster turned pass-catcher, Gonzalez is well on his way to becoming the most prolific pass-catching tight end in NFL history. Gonzalez is only one touchdown away from tying Shannon Sharpe's career record of 62 by a tight end. Gonzalez is likely to surpass Sharpe in receptions and receiving yards in 2008. Gonzalez already has equaled Sharpe with eight Pro Bowl appearances. In 2004, Gonzalez became the first tight end to catch more than 100 passes in a season.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
11 13 14 12 10 60

16. Dwight Freeney

Dwight Freeney
The speedy Freeney has been named to the Pro Bowl three times in five seasons. He has recorded fewer than 11 sacks in a season just once -- in 2006 when he battled shoulder and leg injuries. By winning a Super Bowl ring last season, he raised his Hall of Fame stock considerably, and it's reasonable to expect that Indy's Super Bowl window will remain open for at least a couple more years. The Colts evidently consider Freeney irreplaceable, having recently made him the NFL's highest-paid defender, to the tune of $30 million guaranteed.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
16 14 6 10 14 60

17. Champ Bailey

Champ Bailey
Bailey has all the qualities you would want in a cornerback: speed, intelligence, instincts, agility, big-play ability and textbook form. After being drafted in the first round by the Redskins in 1999, Bailey quickly emerged as one of the game's elite corners. Since being traded to Denver in 2004, he has recorded 21 interceptions and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2006. At 28, it's reasonable to predict that Bailey will be able to play at an elite level for many years to come.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
18 14 14 4 9 59

18. Derrick Brooks

Derrick Brooks
Has there been a more consistent linebacker over the past decade? Brooks hasn't missed a regular-season game in his career and was selected to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1997-2006. Not even Ray Lewis has exhibited that level of continued excellence. Brooks' career reached its apex in 2002, when he was named Defensive Player of the Year and helped the Buccaneers win their first Super Bowl title. He has recorded more than 100 tackles in each of the past 11 seasons and has been named a first-team All-Pro five times.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
16 14 14 6 8 58

19. Warren Sapp

Warren Sapp
A stalwart of Tampa Bay's smothering defenses of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sapp fell off the radar to an extent during his first two seasons in Oakland. The Raiders struggled, and so did Sapp. But let's not forget that Sapp has been named to seven Pro Bowls in 12 seasons, was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1999, and won a ring in Super Bowl XXXVII with the Buccaneers. Also not to be overlooked, Sapp recorded 10 sacks last season for a solid Oakland defense. A slimmer Sapp might be able to clinch his invitation to Canton with another big season in 2007.

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
14 12 14 8 10 58

20. Torry Holt

Torry Holt
Holt quietly has established himself as one of the best receivers of his generation. He won a Super Bowl as a rookie in 1999 and has been named to six Pro Bowl squads. He led the NFL with 117 receptions in 2003 and has more receiving yards (9,887) than any player since 2000. Holt was the first NFL player to record 1,300 receiving yards for six consecutive seasons and reached the 600-reception plateau in 107 games, second-fastest in league history. He also owns two of the nine highest single-season receiving yardage totals since 1960 (1,696 in '03 and 1,635 in '00).

Cantonized: Hall of Fame predictions

Selections 1-10
Selections 21-30
Selections 31-40
Selections 41-50
On the bubble
Odd men out
The list: 1-50



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?


50 Future Hall of Famers

• Cantonized: Selections Nos. 1-10
• Cantonized: Selections Nos. 11-20
• Cantonized: Selections Nos. 21-30
• Cantonized: Selections Nos. 31-40
• Cantonized: Selections Nos. 41-50
• Cantonized: The list 1-50


• 10 players on the Canton bubble
• 10 big names who won't be Hall of Famers

Video analysis ESPN Video

• Ron Jaworski on quarterback selections
• Floyd Reese on running back selections
• Sean Salisbury on receiver/tight end selections
• Mark Schlereth on offensive line selections
• Mike Golic on defensive line selections
• Tom Jackson on linebacker selections
• Eric Allen on defensive back selections

Audio analysis

• Jeremy Green, John Clayton and Michael Smith dissect selections 1-25 | 26-50, bubble players

Photo gallery

• Zoom gallery of top-10 selections


• Vote: Who is bound for Canton?

Ratings key

We rated players on a 100-point scale in five categories worth up to 20 points each:

Mortality -- 10 possible points based on injury history (the more durable the player, the higher the score) and 10 possible points based on how close he would be to the Hall of Fame if an injury ended his career today.

Statistics -- Statistical milestones, awards, records and Pro Bowl appearances.

Team success -- Super Bowl victories and appearances, playoff appearances and victories, top playoff seeds earned.

Upside -- Perceived statistical potential based on age, skill, talent, fitness and durability. This includes potential to break records, climb statistical lists and earn Pro Bowl selections.

Intangibles -- Anything not covered by the other four categories, for instance: leadership, reputation, team success potential, superstar potential and positional representation in the Hall of Fame.

Order of tiebreakers: 1. Team; 2. Statistics; 3. Mortality