NFL players can’t be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until at least five years after they retire. That being said, no player currently in the league can make it to Canton until at least 2022.
However, it’s never too early to think about which active players will one day be enshrined in greatness down the road as future Hall of Famers. We selected one player from each team that’s most likely to get inducted at some point.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is a lock to make the Hall of Fame, especially after putting together 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons in the past two years. Even if he retires tomorrow, he’s going to be voted into the Hall. His off-field work as a member of the Arizona community, winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2016, and his graciousness in the media will also help his case.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
The Falcons have a couple of long shots to make the Hall of Fame in Ryan and Julio Jones, but ultimately, it’s the quarterback who gets the nod. Jones has had a history of injuries, and wide receivers’ careers aren’t nearly as long as those of franchise quarterbacks. Despite having an MVP in his back pocket, Ryan will need to win a Super Bowl to make it to Canton.
Bob DonnanBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Suggs
Suggs has been really good for a really long time, recording six seasons of double-digit sacks. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, which helps his case, as does a Super Bowl ring on his finger. His longevity is something to be admired, which it will be when it comes time to vote on his eligibility. In the end, he probably won’t make it, though.
Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy
McCoy has been one of the best running backs in the game since 2011, making the Pro Bowl in five of the last six years. If not for injuries in 2012 and 2015, his numbers would be even more impressive. His best season came in 2013 with the Eagles when he led the NFL in rush attempts, rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. Unless he wins a ring or is named MVP, he’s not going to make it to Canton.
Timothy T. LudwigTimothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly
Kuechly very well may be the best linebacker in the NFL, and the only thing that could keep him from the Hall of Fame is his injury history. He suffered a very severe concussion last season after missing three games in 2015 for the same reason, which has become a troubling trend for him. One can only hope concussions don’t significantly shorten his career the way they have so many other linebackers. If he continues to play for at least five more seasons at a high level, he’ll be inducted.
Chicago Bears: Kyle Long
Not only are the Bears a bad team, but they’re thin on talented veterans. That made it hard to pick their likeliest Hall of Famer, but Long probably has the best shot. He’s made the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons with 2016 being the exception, which goes to show how solid he’s been at both guard and tackle. Accolades and longevity will be what gets him into the Hall of Fame (like every other player) because the Bears don’t appear to be en route to a Super Bowl any time soon.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green
Green has made the Pro Bowl every year he’s been in the NFL despite missing 10 games in his career, which just goes to show how dominant he is when he does play. He’s had at least 964 receiving yards in every season, including two with more than 1,300 and 11 touchdowns. He’ll have to keep up this torrid pace and avoid serious injuries down the road. Oh, and maybe win a playoff game. That’d help.
Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas
Thomas is as much a lock to make it to Canton as any player in the NFL. Yes, including Tom Brady. He’s never made the playoffs, but he has 10 Pro Bowl and six first-team All-Pro selections and has never missed a snap in his career. Not a single one.
DIAMOND IMAGESDiamond Images/Getty Images
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten
Witten could’ve retired five years ago and still made the Hall of Fame. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been good in recent seasons, but he left his mark on the NFL long ago when he established himself as an elite tight end. Being a role model and valued member of the community doesn’t hurt, either, nor does his remarkable streak of 208 consecutive games played.
Denver Broncos: Von Miller
Miller already has five Pro Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl MVP and a Defensive Rookie of the Year award on his resume, but he’s still not a lock to make the Hall of Fame. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll inch closer to Canton. However, it’ll likely take a career similar to that of DeMarcus Ware to guarantee his induction.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford
Stafford probably hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the first overall pick in 2009, but he’s been solid since overcoming injury concerns early in his career. One of the few things missing from his resume is a playoff win, which has lingered over his head for a while. Since he’s a volume passer, he’ll continue to rack up big yardage totals and a high number of touchdown passes, but it’s the postseason that hurts his resume.
Tim FullerTim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
You might as well put it in permanent marker: Rodgers is a Hall of Famer. He can retire whenever he’d like and still make it to Canton. Despite only having one Super Bowl win, Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks to ever step foot on an NFL field.
Houston Texans: J.J. Watt
Watt has probably already done enough to land himself in the Hall of Fame, winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards, leading the league in sacks twice and being a four-time All-Pro in just six seasons. As long as this back injury doesn’t keep popping up for years to come, he’ll be a lock to make it.
Indianapolis Colts: Adam Vinatieri
Andrew Luck would seem to be the obvious choice here based on name recognition and potential, but don’t forget about Vinatieri. He’s a four-time Super Bowl champion and was a huge part of the Patriots’ dominance in the early 2000s. Suprisingly, though, he’s been even better with the Colts. In the playoffs, he’s made 57 of 61 attempts (including extra points), and has been nearly as solid in the regular season. He’ll be in Canton down the road.
Michael HickeyGetty Images
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars are a very young team, which makes it difficult to project which player has any shot at making it to Canton. Calais Campbell is the likeliest veteran, but with only two Pro Bowl appearances, that’s not going to happen. Which leads us to Ramsey, who after one season looks like a future All-Pro. He can be what Richard Sherman is to the Seahawks, which is a favorable projection for a young corner.
Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Berry
Berry has done everything the Chiefs could have asked since making him the fifth overall pick in 2010. Five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro selections and the perseverance to overcome cancer with a remarkable season in 2015, and again in 2016. He’s one of the best safeties in the game today and is on pace to make it to Canton one day.
Los Angeles Chargers: Antonio Gates
Gates helped revolutionize the tight end position by bringing unmatched athleticism and ball skills from his days as a basketball player. That, in addition to his Hall of Fame-worthy numbers will ultimately land him in Canton, likely when first eligible. He’s 33rd all-time in receiving yards with that number likely to continue climbing.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald
Donald is arguably the single most dominant player in the NFL, and when you carry a title like that, you’re likely to make the Hall of Fame. Granted, it’s still very early in his career, but with the start he’s gotten off to, it’s hard to see him doing anything to prevent himself from making it to Canton.
Kelvin KuoKelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Dolphins: Ndamukong Suh
Aside from being labeled a dirty player, Suh hasn’t done anything yet to keep him out of the discussion as a future Hall of Famer. In Detroit, he was unstoppable, and he has continued to dominate opposing linemen in Miami. It helps that he’s only missed two games in his career while making five Pro Bowls.
Rich BarnesGetty Images
Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith
The Vikings have a handful of fairly young candidates on their defense, including Xavier Rhodes, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph, but Smith is the selection here because of his resume up to this point. He already has two Pro Bowl selections – both in the last two years, despite missing five games) – and has picked off 12 passes in his career. He has a long way to go before he’s seriously considered for the Hall of Fame, but his arrow is pointing up.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportBrace Hemmelgarn
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Does this really need any explanation? Brady may very well be the best player in NFL history, and he’s not done playing just yet. No player is as much of a Hall of Fame lock as Brady, and his resume speaks for itself.
USA TODAY SportsDan Powers-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Before this offseason, Brees was the only choice for the Saints. Now with Adrian Peterson in the mix, it at least became a conversation. However, Brees, with his Super Bowl ring and numerous records, is the selection. He’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and deservingly so. Few quarterbacks to grace an NFL field have been as prolific as he has been.
Derick E. HingleDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants: Eli Manning
Like it or not, Manning is most likely going to be a Hall of Famer. There’s very little he can do to change that fact one way or the other (outside of winning a third Super Bowl), and seeing him in Canton will anger a lot of fans. But the fact of the matter is that every quarterback to win at least two Super Bowls is either in the Hall of Fame, or is a future Hall of Famer – except for Jim Plunkett. Manning is almost certain to get in.
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets: Leonard Williams
Yikes. The Jets went from having a few legitimate candidates in Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall to having none. Zero. Zilch. Williams, despite only being in his second season, is the likeliest Jet to make it to Canton, which is telling of how young and untalented their roster really is.
Kevin HoffmanKevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack
Mack has gotten off to a stellar start in the NFL with two first-team All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year award already on his resume. It’ll be difficult to keep up that pace, but he doesn’t have to. He just has to be a consistent player for 10-plus years with multiple playoff appearances and possibly a Super Bowl ring. That’s easier said than done, but Mack has the potential to be all-time great.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Peters
Peters’ best years have come in Philadelphia, where he’s made the Pro Bowl seven times in eight years with his lone absence being in 2012, when he missed the entire season. His three playoff appearances (zero wins) leave much to be desired when it comes to accolades, but Peters has been one of the best left tackles in the league for a long time.
Eric HartlineEric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Two Super Bowl wins and five Pro Bowl appearances will be enough to get Big Ben into the Hall of Fame, especially considering how well he’s played for more than a decade. Antonio Brown is another candidate from the Steelers to make the Hall considering the pace he’s on, but Roethlisberger will really have to mess up to be kept out of Canton.
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers: Joe Staley
Staley has a very slim chance of making the Hall of Fame simply because he doesn’t have the resume, but he’s played at a high level since 2011 – his first season as a Pro Bowler. The 49ers don’t have another player – except for maybe NaVorro Bowman, who’s been limited by injuries – who can contend for a spot in the Hall.
Seattle Seahawks: Richard Sherman
This one was tough. Russell Wilson is on track to becoming an all-time great quarterback, but he hasn’t done enough yet to solidify his place in Canton. Earl Thomas is approaching that territory, but after he considered retirement this past year, who knows how long he’ll play. Sherman already has put up great numbers for long enough to throw his name into the conversation as a Hall of Famer. Continuing to be a Pro Bowler each season will help, but Sherman is an elite corner.
Thearon W. Henderson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy
Jameis Winston has the makings of a franchise quarterback and a potential Hall of Famer, but after two seasons, who’s to say what he’ll do in the NFL. McCoy, on the other hand, has been dominant for the Buccaneers and is a huge part of any success they have. It’s hard for defensive tackles to be inducted, but McCoy is a rare talent.
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota
Unless you’re a legend, it’s hard to make the Hall of Fame as a running back because of how short their careers are. That rules out DeMarco Murray, barring a few more 2014-type seasons. Mariota, considering his talent and potential, could eventually find himself enshrined down the road. It’ll take a couple of Super Bowl wins and a bunch of awards, but Mariota has great potential.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins: Trent Williams
Williams is in the discussion as the best left tackle in the NFL, having made the Pro Bowl in each of the last five years. He’s still young enough where he can bolster his resume with a few more Pro Bowls and a handful of first-team All-Pro selections, but even that probably won’t be enough to get him to Canton.