2024 HOF Modern Era Survey: Gates Only First-Ballot Pick; Six WRs named

Dec 2, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) runs after a catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Chargers won 33-30. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) runs after a catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Chargers won 33-30. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ballots are out to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, which must whittle a list of 173 Modern Era Nominees to 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2024. Deadline on voting is early November. 

The Sports Xchange conducted its annual survey among 30 people involved in some manner with pro football — 10 team coaches or officials, 10 Hall of Fame inductees and 10 journalists who are not members of the selection committee. Hardly scientific, but interesting nevertheless. The results are not very surprising, although after 33 years on the selection committee, we admit the bar for surprise is very high. 

Top 25 vote-getters included only one first-time eligible, tight end Antonio Gates the former college basketball player who was a Chargers great. Excellent choice.

Also included were six wide receivers, four of whom were finalists last year — Devin Hester (also returner), Torry Holt, Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne. The other two wide receivers are Steve Smith Sr. and Hines Ward. 

That is a lot of wide receivers, which is a predictable trend.

As the game evolved to predominately passing, wide receiver stats became bloated and perhaps voters and fans are too easily influenced by these inflated numbers. Gaining 1,000 yards a season — as a receiver or a runner — should not be as impressive as it was when pro football seasons were 14 games long. The league moved to 16 games in 1978 and last year added a 17th regular-season game.

So before 1978, players needed to average 71 yards a game to have a 1,000 yard season. Between 1978 and 2021 the per-game average dropped to 63, and beginning last season 59 yards a game will get the 1,000 yards that used to be a big deal. And, especially for receivers, that benchmark doesn't even factor in the evolution of rules that make running pass patterns far less physical. Yet that 1,000-yard mark — and total-yards statistics in general — remain recognized with the same importance as years ago, when it was legal to mug receivers who had only 14 games to reach that magic, four-digit yardage mark.

Other returning finalists in the top 25 in our survey are defensive lineman Jared Allen, an excellent choice; linebacker Patrick Willis, who made himself a shoo-in this year when he all but ceded his spot by praising undersized linebacker sensation Zach Thomas, who became a 2023 inductee; and defensive back Darren Woodson.

Rounding out the top 25 in our survey: offensive linemen Willie Anderson, Richmond Webb and Erik Williams; defensive linemen Leslie O'Neal, Julius Peppers and Kevin Williams; linebacker James Harrison; defensive backs Eric Allen, Merton Hanks and Rodney Harrison...and kicker Gary Anderson 

My list would be a little different, especially at wide receiver, where we all need to look at statistics from a realistic perspective. It would also be a little different at defensive back. 

Nine of the 173 players are in their first year of eligibility. Along with tight end Antonio Gates, they include wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson; running back Jamaal Charles; offensive linemen T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Max Unger and defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Julius Peppers.

The roster of nominees consists of 94 offensive players, 62 defensive players and 17 special-teams players. The 49-person committee is working on whittling right now.

Sound easy? Give it a try. Twenty-five, no more.  


For the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 

QUARTERBACKS (10): Marc Bulger, Randall Cunningham, Jake Delhomme, Doug Flutie, Rich Gannon, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Michael Vick

RUNNING BACKS (33): Shaun Alexander, Terry Allen, Mike Alstott, Jamal Anderson, Tiki Barber, Michael Bates (also KR), Jamaal Charles, Larry Centers (FB), Stephen Davis, Corey Dillon, Warrick Dunn, Charlie Garner, Eddie George, Ahman Green, Priest Holmes, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Daryl Johnston (FB), Thomas Jones, John Kuhn (FB), Vonta Leach, Dorsey Levens, Jamal Lewis, Eric Metcalf (also WR/PR/KR), Glyn Milburn (also WR), Lorenzo Neal (FB), Tony Richardson (FB), Robert Smith, Fred Taylor, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters, Brian Westbrook, Ricky Williams

WIDE RECEIVERS (23): Anquan Boldin, Troy Brown (also PR/KR), Donald Driver, Antonio Freeman, Irving Fryar, Dante Hall, Devin Hester* (also PR/KR), Torry Holt*, Joe Horn, Andre Johnson*, Chad Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Derrick Mason, Herman Moore, Muhsin Muhammad, Jordy Nelson, Andre Rison, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne*, Wes Welker

TIGHT ENDS (3): Ben Coates, Antonio Gates, Wesley Walls

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (25): Willie Anderson* (T), Bruce Armstrong (T/G), Matt Birk (C), Lomas Brown (T), Ruben Brown (G), Jahri Evans (G), Kevin Glover (C/G), Olin Kreutz (C), T.J. Lang (T), Matt Light (T), Nick Mangold (C), Logan Mankins (G), Tom Nalen (C), Nate Newton (G/T), Jeff Saturday (C), Mark Schlereth (G/C), Josh Sitton (G), Chris Snee (G), Mark Stepnoski (C), Dave Szott (G), Max Unger (C), Brian Waters (G), Richmond Webb (T), Erik Williams (T), Steve Wisniewski (G)

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (20): John Abraham (DE also LB), Jared Allen* (DE), Dwight Freeney* (DE), La’Roi Glover (DT/NT), Casey Hampton (DT/NT), Robert Mathis (DE), Haloti Ngata (DT), Leslie O’Neal (DE), Julius Peppers (DE), Simeon Rice (DE), Justin Smith (DE), Neil Smith (DE), Dana Stubblefield (DT), Henry Thomas (DT/NT), Justin Tuck (DE), Ted Washington (NT/DT), Vince Wilfork (DT/NT), Jamal Williams (DT/NT), Kevin Williams (DT), Pat Williams (DT)

LINEBACKERS (25): Jesse Armstead, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Cornelius Bennett, Lance Briggs, Keith Brooking, NaVorro Bowman, Tedy Bruschi, Karlos Dansby, Donnie Edwards, James Farrior, London Fletcher, James Harrison, Larry Izzo, Willie McGinest (also DE), Hardy Nickerson, Ken Norton Jr., Bryce Paup, Julian Peterson, Joey Porter, Takeo Spikes, Jessie Tuggle, Mike Vrabel, Patrick Willis*, Al Wilson, Lee Woodall

DEFENSIVE BACKS (17): Eric Allen (CB), Kam Chancellor (S), Nick Collins (DB), Antonio Cromartie (CB), Dré Bly (DB), Merton Hanks (S), Rodney Harrison (S), Carnell Lake (DB), Tim McDonald (S), Eugene Robinson (DB), Samari Rolle (DB), Allen Rossum (DB), Bob Sanders (S), Charles Tillman (CB), Troy Vincent (CB), Antoine Winfield (DB), Darren Woodson* (S)

PUNTERS/KICKERS (15): David Akers (K), Gary Anderson (K), Darren Bennett (P), Jason Elam (K), Jeff Feagles (P), Jason Hanson (K), John Kasay (K), Sean Landeta (P), Shane Lechler (P), Brad Maynard (P), Pat McAfee (P), Brian Moorman (P), Matt Stover (K), Matt Turk (P), Mike Vanderjagt (K)

SPECIAL TEAMS (2): Josh Cribbs (KR/PR also WR), Brian Mitchell (KR/PR also RB)

*Finalist in 2023. Underline indicates first year of eligibility. (Players must have last played at least five full seasons ago to be eligible for nomination. Therefore, any individual who last played in 2018 is eligible for the first time in 2024.)

Nineteen Finalists will be presented to the full 50-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual meeting to choose the Class of 2024. Those candidates will consist of 15 Modern-Era Players Finalists and the recently named Seniors Finalists Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell, and Coach/Contributor Finalist Buddy Parker.

The Selection Committee will meet early next year (on a date to be determined) in advance of Super Bowl LVIII. While there is no set number for any class of enshrinees, the selection-process bylaws provide that between four and nine new members will be selected. 

The Seniors Finalists and Coach/Contributor Finalist are voted “yes” or “no” for election at the annual selection meeting and must receive at least 80 percent support from the Committee to join the Class of 2024. The Modern-Era Finalists will be trimmed during the meeting from 15 to 10, then from 10 to five. The remaining five Finalists will be voted on individually, “yes” or “no,” and must receive the same 80 percent positive vote as the Seniors and Coach/Contributor to earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This year’s reduction voting and the selection-meeting ballots will be processed via an online voting platform developed specifically for the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the firm EY.

EY has overseen the election process since the Centennial Class of 2020.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 will be enshrined in August 2024.

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