The Pro Football Hall of Fame: Who Will Get Busted in 2023

As they charge full steam towards a Super Bowl Sunday that features the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL will stop those festivities and hold their NFL Honors presentations. Sprinkled between the award presentations will be the names of the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

How will selections for the class lay out? Here are the predictions for who will be enshrined in the 2023 class.

The Opening Cuts

Albert Lewis, Cornerback (1983-1993 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-98 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders)

First Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowl – 4

Pro Football HOF Finalist: 2013, 2023

Positives: Lewis was considered by opponents to be one of the toughest cornerbacks they ever faced during their careers.

Negatives: Never amassed dominant counting stats among defensive back categories. “Toughness” is not an easy asset to quantify. There a plenty of Pro Football Hall of Famers who were tough but also dominated their statistical categories.

Verdict: This is Lewis’ last year of Modern Era eligibility and he’s only made it as a finalist twice. He has a couple of more qualified defensive backs to try and jump over to make this dream happen.

Willie Anderson, Offensive Tackle (1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals; 2008 Baltimore Ravens)

First Team All-Pro – 3; Second Team All-Pro – 1; Pro Bowl – 4

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist, 2022, 2023

Positives: Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan called Anderson “the greatest right tackle of his generation.” Anderson spent all but the final season of his 13-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals and blocked for nine 1,000-yard rushers.

He was selected 10th overall by Cincinnati in the 1996 NFL Draft and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team after that season. Anderson started in 184 of his 195 career games

Negatives: Over the course of his career the Bengals rarely finished in the top half of the league each season in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per attempt average.

Verdict: There is no doubt that Anderson was a great offensive tackle. His problem is, there’s an even better one on the ballot this year.

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver (2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts)

First Team All-Pro – 1, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 6

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Positives: Reggie Wayne led the NFL with 1,510 receiving yards in 2007. He was in the league’s top 10 in receiving yards seven times and in the top 10 in receptions four times. Wayne is currently tenth on all-time lists with 1,070 receptions and 14,345 receiving yards.

Negatives: Wayne doesn’t have the touchdown numbers that his peers at the position do.

Verdict: The selection committee has created a logjam at wide receiver again after ignoring the position in their questionable 2022 class. Wayne is third among the three finalists this season.

Dwight Freeney, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker (2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14
San Diego Chargers, 2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017
Detroit Lions)

First Team All-Pro – 3, Second Team All-Pro – 1, Pro Bowls – 7

Pro Football HOF Finalist: 2023

Positives: Dwight Freeney was the 11th pick overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Colts. He finished second in defensive rookie of the year voting. Was third in defensive player of the year voting in 2004 and second for that honor in 2005.

Freeney led the NFL with 16 sacks in 2004 and amassed 125.5 sacks in his career. His 47 forced fumbles put him fourth on the NFL’s all-time list.

Negatives: Freeney never reached double-digit sacks in a season after the age of 30.

Verdict: Freeney is a first-time finalist on a loaded list of qualified defensive players. The selection committee usually likes to make first-year finalists, with a few exceptions, wait a couple of years before opening the door for them.

Darren Woodson, Safety (1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys)

First Team All-Pro – 3, Pro Bowls – 5

Pro Football HOF Finalist – 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023

Positives: Woodson was voted to the 1992 NFL All-Rookie Team. For a five-year period he was one of the most dominant safeties in the league. He was equally strong against run and passing games.

Negatives: No eye-popping numbers stand out, either for a single season or career.

Verdict: It’s not yet time for Woodson. At least, not ahead of Ronde Barber.

Honorable Mentions

These are Pro Football Hall of Fame caliber players who could go in this year depending on the conversations among the Selection Committee but will end up being fitted for a gold jacket some day.

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver (2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans)

First Team All-Pro – 2, Second Team All-Pro, Pro Bowl – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022, 2023

Positives: Johnson led the NFL in receptions twice, receiving yards twice and average yards per game three times. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards nine times in his 14-season career.

Johnson is currently eleventh all-time in receptions and receiving yards. In the postseason, he played four games and totaled 25 catches for 358 yards and one touchdown.

In 2003, Johnson was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team and was named one of the NFL’s Top 100 Players list four times.

Negatives: Joined Houston in the second year of the franchise’s existence. He only has two postseasons which has kept his profile lower than it should be considering his career production.

Verdict: Andre Johnson in a Hall of Fame caliber receiver. The only question is what year that will take place?

Johnson is sitting on a finalists list for the second straight year that includes Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt. Both of those receiver peers enjoyed more time in the postseason spotlight than Johnson.

DeMarcus Ware, Linebacker (2005-2013 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-2016 Denver Broncos)

First Team All-Pro – 4, Pro Bowl – 9

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022, 2023

Positives: Ware was a defensive powerhouse in Dallas starting with his rookie season. He led the league in sacks twice and recorded double-digit sacks in eight of his 12 seasons. He also led the league in tackles for losses three times. Ware is also ninth on the all-time sacks list with 138.5

Negatives: Ware is still fighting a loaded linebacker list that all deserve gold jackets.

Verdict: Ware is Hall of Fame quality. Still, that wouldn’t be fair to a couple of other defensive linemen/linebackers who’ve been waiting longer. Then again, the selection committee isn’t known for fairness.

Patrick Willis, Linebacker (2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers)

All Pro – 4, Second Team All-Pro – 1, Pro Bowl – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022, 2023

Positives: Willis was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007 and was a perennial All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker.

Willis led the NFL in tackles twice and totaled over 100 tackles in a season six times in his eight-year career. He was also one of the hardest hitting inside linebackers to ever play the game.

Negatives: Willis dealt with some nagging injuries in 2013 and 2014 and retired before his 30th birthday.

Verdict: Willis was a finalist for three years before finally breaking through as a finalist. The only conclusion that can be drawn from that is Willis is paying the price with the selection committee for retiring early.

Willis should have been a first-ballot inductee. Hell, he could have gone in the day after he retired and would have earned it. I expect the selection committee will force Willis to spend one or two years on the finalist list before voting him in.

Devin Hester, Punt Returner, Kick Returner, Wide Receiver (2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-2015 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens, 2016 Seattle Seahawks)

First Team All-Pro – 2, Second Team All-Pro – 1, Pro Bowl – 4

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022, 2023

Positives: Hester was named a First Team All-Pro in his rookie season after returning 47 punts for 600 yards and three touchdowns. He added two more touchdowns as a kickoff returner and ran back a missed field goal 108-yards. He followed that up in 2007 with four more punt return touchdowns and another First Team All-Pro nod.

In Super Bowl XLI, Hester became the first player to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown with a 92-yard dash to the house.

Hester still holds all-time NFL records with 14 punt return touchdowns and 20 non-offensive touchdowns, 14 punt returns, five kickoff returns and one missed field goal return.

Negatives: Both his kickoff and punt return production nose-dived in 2008 and 2009 when the Chicago Bears attempted to turn him into a wide receiver. He returned to All-Pro form in 2010.

Verdict: Hester wasn’t just a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s, he’s one of only two specialists on the NFL 100 All-Time Team, along with Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. However, the selection committee still holds a strong prejudice against specialists, or Hester would have been in last year. There are too many deserving “real players” on this year’s ballot so he’s going to have to wait a little longer.

Jared Allen, Defensive End (2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers) First Team All-Pro – 4; Pro Bowls – 5

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021, 2022, 2023

Positives: For a five season stretch, from 2007 to 2011, Allen was one of the premier defensive ends in the league. In 2007, he led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He came close to becoming the single-season sack king in 2011 with 22. His 136 career sacks total puts him at 12th on the all-time list.

Allen was also a productive pass defender during his career. He’s tied for third among defensive linemen in career interceptions and tied for sixth among defensive linemen in passes defended.

He was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor in 2022, the seventh lineman in franchise history to be so honored.

Negatives: Allen’s defensive production fell off in the last three seasons of his career.

Verdict: Allen is another Hall of Fame worthy player among a class loaded with worthy nominees. If Zach Thomas is left out in the cold again it’s because Allen was voted in.

The Following Nominees Will Get Busted In 2023

Coaching/Contributor – Don Coryell (1973-1977 St Louis Cardinals, 1978 – 1986 San Diego Chargers)

NFL Coach of the Year – 1974

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist – 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019

Positives: Don Coryell’s passing game innovations are still in use in every offensive system in the NFL. He was one of the first coaches to emphasize passing over running to generate offense.

Among Coryell’s innovations are the one-back formation, the vertical, deep ball passing game, two tight end formations and the use of shifts and motion to expose defensive strategy.

Coryell’s coaching tree includes John Maddon and Joe Gibbs, both Super Bowl winning head coaches.

Negatives: Coryell’s teams made the playoffs in six of his 14 seasons as a head coach but never reached the Super Bowl.

Verdict: I always said that Coryell would be moved to the contributor category instead of a coach among players, that he would be a lock. He is now a lock.

Senior Nominee – Chuck Howley, Linebacker (1958 – 1959 Chicago Bears, 1961 to 1973 Dallas Cowboys)

First Team All-Pro – 5, Pro Bowl – 6

Never a Hall of Fame Finalist

Positives: Look at Howley’s career and it’s tough to explain how he never appeared on a finalist list. He was one of the most dominant linebackers in the NFL from 1965 to 1971.

Among linebackers, Howley is currently tied for 16th on the all-time interceptions list. In Super Bowl V he became the only Super Bowl MVP who played on the losing team. In that game against the Baltimore Colts he intercepted two passes and forced a fumble.

Negatives: Howley did played his career during an era where tackles and forced fumbles weren’t official statistics so he never had the counting stats to compare to later era candidates.

Verdict: Howley finally gets his day in the sun.

Senior Nominee – Ken Riley, Cornerback (1969-1983 Cincinnati Bengals)

First Team All-Pro – 1, Second Team All-Pro – 2

Never a Hall of Fame Finalist

Positives: Riley was fourth on the all-time interceptions list when he retired and is currently tied for fifth on that list. He registered at least one interception in every season of his career. His career stats compare favorably to Darrell Green, Ty Law and Larry Wilson, all Hall of Fame cornerbacks

Negatives: Was never named as a Pro Bowl cornerback.

Verdict: There’s no doubt, Riley’s accomplishments over his 15-year career make him Hall of Fame worthy.

Senior Nominee – Joe Klecko, Defensive Lineman (1977 – 1987 New York Jets, 1988 Indianapolis Colts)

First Team All-Pro – 2, Second Team All-Pro – 1 Pro Bowl – 4

Never a Hall of Fame Finalist

Positives: Klecko was one of the most dominant defensive linemen of the early 1980s. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 1981 after racking up 20.5 sacks as a defensive end. He moved inside after that, terrorizing centers with his diagonal stance over their position.

Negatives: Injuries slowed him down in the last three seasons of his career.

Verdict: Essentially, invented the 3-tech position on the defensive line. He’ll go in because of his mid-career dominance.

Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle (2007-2017 Cleveland Browns)

First Team All-Pro – 6, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowl – 10

Pro Football HOF Finalist: 2023

Positives: The Cleveland Browns made Thomas the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and he dominated at left tackle for 11 seasons. He was a mountain of a man who played with strength, speed and agility.

Thomas played all 16 games in a season for his first 10 years in the league before tearing his triceps in a Week 7 game against the Tennessee Titans in 2017.

Negatives: Never played a game in the postseason. Not for lack of trying on his part though.

Verdict: Thomas is a no-doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer.

Darrelle Revis, Cornerback (2007-2012 New York Jets, 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2014
New England Patriots, 2015-16 New York Jets, 2017 Kansas City Chiefs)

First Team All-Pro – 4, Pro Bowl – 7

Pro Football HOF Finalist: 2023

Positives: Revis’ career interception total is low but there was many a game where quarterbacks refused to throw the ball in his direction. He was known for his lock-down coverage of an opponent’s top receiver. Revis was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s

Negatives: Lack of postseason opportunities although he did win a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots.

Verdict: Revis was among the best cornerbacks of his era and will be rewarded for that in his first year of eligibility.

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver (1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars)

First Team All-Pro – 1, Second Team – 1, Pro Bowls 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Positives: @BigGame81 dominated the wide receiver position during the St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” era. Holt led the NFL in receiving yards in his second season and repeated that feat in 2003, his All-Pro season.

In Super Bowl XXXIV Holt had 11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Rams victory over the Tennessee Titans.

He passed 1,000 receiving yards eight straight seasons and pulled in double-digit touchdowns in three. Holt finished his career with 74 touchdown catches. He’s also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Negatives: Isaac Bruce was the second-best receiver on his own team but was selected for the Hall of Fame in the 2020 class. Another example of how 2020 was fu…I mean, screwed up.

Verdict: Holt is still the best of the three receivers on the finalist list. His wait should be over but the selection committee doesn’t always get it right (see 2022).

Ronde Barber, Cornerback/Safety (1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

First Team All-Pro – 3, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowl – 5

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021, 2022, 2023

Positives: Barber played in 241 regular season games during his 16-year career which included a run of 215 consecutive starts. He led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2001 and had at least one interception in all but one of his seasons as a starter. He returned eight of his 47 career interceptions for touchdowns and added four fumble recovery and two deflected punt touchdowns to that total.

Barber is the only player in NFL history to record at least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks in a career. He’s also the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks for a cornerback. Finally, Barber is tenth on the all-time solo tackles list and is the top defensive back on that list. He’s also third on the career passes defended list.

Negatives: Was only voted Buccaneers team caption 9 times in his 16-season career. Their problem, not his.

Verdict: Barber has the numbers to be Hall of Fame worthy. Also, if you check his page on, his career player comps match with defensive backs who are already enshrined. It’s time for him to be recognized.

Zach Thomas, Linebacker (1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys)

First Team All-Pro – 5, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Positives: Was named AFC Defensive Player of the year in 1996. He led the league in tackles twice and is currently fifth on the all-time list with 1,734. Finished with 48 passes defended, a high total for a linebacker’s career.

Negatives: Only played in eight postseason games so missed out on the notoriety that playoff appearances would have attracted.

Verdict: There’s no doubt among fans that Thomas is Hall of Fame worthy but the selection committee has managed to find a reason to reject him three times. It’s about time for them to take the blinkers off.


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