Three wide receivers headline potential class of 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates

CANTON, Ohio -- With the largest enshrinement weekend in Pro Football Hall of Fame history in the books, an early look at the potential class of 2022 features a trio of wide receivers in their first year of eligibility.

Receivers Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith and Andre Johnson lead the list of players. Pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware and special teams ace/wide receiver Devin Hester have also been out of the league five seasons, making them eligible.

Smith is eighth in all-time receiving yards, while Johnson is 11th. Boldin is ninth all time in receptions. Ware is 13th all time in sacks, including a 20-sack season in 2008. Hester holds the record for return touchdowns with 20 (14 punt return touchdowns, five kickoff return touchdowns and one missed field goal returned for a touchdown.

The Hall's board of selectors will choose 25 semifinalists in the coming weeks, and that list will be trimmed by early January to 15. As many as five modern-era players can be selected for enshrinement.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli, who has been a finalist in each of the past five years, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who has been a finalist three times, will have strong cases again.

LeRoy Butler, Torry Holt, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas and Reggie Wayne have each been finalists twice, including in 2021. Since 2010, the modern-era enshrinees who were finalists the most times before being selected include Russ Grimm, Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Charles Haley (six times) and Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene (five times).

Jared Allen, Ronde Barber and Clay Matthews Jr. were also finalists last year, but Matthews is now a seniors candidate, as his modern-era eligibility has expired.

John Lynch, the former Broncos and Buccaneers safety who was enshrined Sunday in the class of 2021, had been a finalist eight times. That was the most times as a finalist for a modern-era enshrinee since Art Monk was selected for the class of 2008 in his eighth time as a finalist.

Lynn Swann was selected for the class of 2001 after being a finalist 14 times.