Breaking down the 15 NFL Hall of Fame finalists from the ridiculously loaded class of 2021

Breaking down the 15 NFL Hall of Fame finalists from the ridiculously loaded class of 2021

The 2021 NFL Hall of Fame group of finalists is positively stacked with talent, and worthy additions to Canton, including four first-time eligible candidates. Before we dive into all 15 finalists, let’s look at some trends from the Hall of Fame.

Since 2010, only seven wide receivers have been elected, and only one year saw two receivers go in together — 2018’s Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

Other than last year’s class which was the 100th year of the NFL and an expanded class, the Hall has averaged 7.3 players elected in each class, with no class having more than 8 players elected.

Here are the 15 finalists that the selection committee will base their decisions on.

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Jared Allen, Defensive End

Jared Allen, Defensive End

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Jared Allen is 12th all-time in sacks with 136.0, including his 2011 season where he was within half a sack of the single season record held by Michael Strahan. He finished that year with 22.0 sacks. Allen is a 5x Pro-Bowler and a 4x First Team All-Pro.

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Ronde Barber, Cornerback/Safety

Ronde Barber, Cornerback/Safety

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Barber was a cornerstone of the early 2000’s Tampa Bay defense, and a key part of the “Tampa 2” defense. He logged 47 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, and 28.0 sacks as a defensive back. Barber was a 5x Pro-Bowler and 3x First Team All-Pro.

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Tony Boselli, Tackle

Tony Boselli, Tackle

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Boselli only played six-and-change seasons in the NFL, but in 91 career games, he allowed only 15.5 sacks. His career was cut short due to injuries, but he was widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackles of his era.

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LeRoy Butler, Safety

LeRoy Butler, Safety

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In his 12-season career, all with the Green Bay Packers, Butler logged 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks. He also accounted for 10 fumble recoveries.

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Alan Faneca, Guard

Alan Faneca, Guard

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Alan Faneca was a stud offensive lineman for 13 seasons. He was a 9x Pro Bowler and 6x First Team All-Pro. He spent 10 of his seasons with Pittsburgh on the interior of that offensive line. This is the sixth consecutive year that Faneca has been a finalist.

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Torry Holt, Wide Receiver

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver

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Holt was a part of the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams offense with teammates Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, and Marshall Faulk — all Hall of Famers. Holt is 8th all time in receiving yards per game with 77.4, and logged massive receiving yard totals, he went six straight seasons with over 1,300 receiving yards, including two seasons with over 1,600 receiving yards.

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Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver

Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver

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Calvin “Megatron” Johnson was simply the most dominant wide receiver of his era, although he walked from the game in his prime, which the Selection Committee might frown upon. He only played nine seasons, but holds the record for the most receiving yards in a season with 1,964 in 2012. He is second all-time in receiving yards per game.

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John Lynch, Safety

John Lynch, Safety

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Teammates with fellow-finalist Ronde Barber, Lynch played 15 seasons as a hard-hitting safety. Lynch doesn’t have stellar numbers, but his presence on the defense was certainly felt. He was a 9x Pro Bowler and 2x First Team All-Pro, and logged 727 career tackles. For my money, I see John Lynch as a very good safety, but not a Hall of Fame one.

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Peyton Manning, Quarterback

Peyton Manning, Quarterback

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Lock this one in first and foremost, Manning will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The 2x Super Bowl Champion holds the record for most passing touchdowns in a season with 55. Manning is the only player to win MVP five times, was a 14x Pro Bowler, 7x All-Pro, 2x AP Offensive Player of the Year, holds the record for most 4,000 passing yard seasons (14), and the record for most passing yards in a season (5,477)… his career was prolific, dominant, excellent in every way. He’ll be in Canton this year in his first year of eligibility.

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Clay Matthews, Jr., Linebacker

Clay Matthews, Jr., Linebacker

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Clay Matthews Jr. was a 4x Pro Bowler that logged 69.5 sacks over a lengthy 19-year career. His longevity aided in him slotting in at 7th all time in combined tackles with 1,595. I’m not sure Matthews Jr. has the resume to make it to Canton, especially in this class.

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Sam Mills, Linebacker

Sam Mills, Linebacker

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Over a 12-year career, Mills racked up 1,265 combined tackles, 21st all time. He was a 5x Pro Bowler and 1x First Team All-Pro. This is the second consecutive year that Mills has been a finalist.

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Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Tackle

Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Tackle

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Seymour was a key member of the Patriots defense of the early 2000’s, and was a part of three Super Bowl victories in a four year stretch. Seymour was named to the Pro Bowl every year from 2002 — 2006, and was a First Team All-Pro for three consecutive years from 2003-2005. Seymour never logged huge statistics, he never registered double-digit sacks and never had more than 56 combined tackles in any season. However, he consistently took on double-teams in the defensive scheme, and should be viewed as having a good shot at Canton.

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Zach Thomas, Linebacker

Zach Thomas, Linebacker

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Thomas was one of the best linebackers of his era. He amassed the fifth-most solo tackles all-time with 1,107, was a 7x Pro Bowler and 5x First Team All-Pro. Spending all but his last year with the Miami Dolphins, Thomas was an often-overlooked force on the defensive side of the ball.

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Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver

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With Peyton Manning almost assuredly getting the nod, it would be fitting for one of his top weapons, Reggie Wayne, to be inducted with him. Wayne is 10th all time in receptions and 10th in receiving yards, and while fellow Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison is already in the Hall of Fame, Wayne certainly deserves to be immortalized in Canton as well. However, as I noted earlier — the selection committee has only selected two wide receivers in the same class once since 2010. Wayne might have to wait a few years to land his spot.

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Charles Woodson, Cornerback/Safety

Charles Woodson, Cornerback/Safety

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Woodson is one of the most versatile defensive backs in league history, and holds the record with 13 defensive touchdowns. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998, the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, had 65 interceptions, 20 sacks, and the 4th-most passes defended in league history with 183. He won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010. Woodson deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

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Predicting the Hall of Fame Class of 2021

Predicting the Hall of Fame Class of 2021

Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson on NFL Draft day, 1998.
Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson on NFL Draft day, 1998.
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My prediction — the first-ballot candidates are all truly legends in NFL History and deserve to be inducted on their first try. I predict that they will, along with a few more very deserving candidates. I predict a seven-candidate class of:

Peyton Manning

Calvin Johnson

Tony Boselli

Alan Faneca

Charles Woodson

Jared Allen

Zach Thomas

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