By John Turney
Here is this year's iteration.
Steve Atwater, Safety – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets
The hype—Was in Final 10 last year and that usually is a great sign. He has two signature plays (hit on Okoye and the point-blank interception Jay Schroeder which was just as impressive. A big hitter who played more in the box than most free safeties we can think of (Dennis Smith often played the post-safety). A lot of Pro Bowls.
The knock—Only All-Pro twice (other safeties had more), not a lot of picks for a free safety.
Odds of being voted in this year—75%
Tony Boselli, Tackle – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars
The hype—His peak is Hall of Fame-worthy. In our view not as good as Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones but better than Orlando Pace, he was right in middle with Willie Roaf among the great tackles of his era. Was a dominant run blocker and good pass protector. Tough and nasty and could handle the bests defensive ends of his day.
The knock—Short career but that is having less and less of an effect on recent candidates and with Jimbo Covert going in, there is no reason for Boselli to be left out. we could have done without the bickering the last few years and the attempts by a few writers to dirty-up Joe Jacoby's record to advance Boselli's cause but he had nothing to do with it, shame on the writers who did that though. Had they looked at it logically Jacoby, Kenn, AND Boselli would be in. All three worthy. But sometimes parochial interests abound.
Odds of being voted in this year—90%
Isaac Bruce, Wide Receiver – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams,
2008-09 San Francisco 49ers
The hype—Key player in Rams Greatest Show on Turf. Caught game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIV, though it gets overshadowed because of "The Tackle". He was productive for a long time, has a ring, and some "black ink" (led league in major category). Was one of the best route-runners ever. Excellent numbers, some even before the GSOT.
The knock—Not All-Pro that often and only four Pro Bowls. But should have been All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 1995.
Odds of being voted in this year—50%
LeRoy Butler, Safety – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers
The hype—Gaining momentum. Was a complete safety with more big plays (sacks, interceptions) than any of the other safeties on this Final 15. Has a ring, played some corner and slot corner early and would played linebacker/slot when the Packers employed the "Big nickel" which Packer Fritz Shurmur used in Arizona. Shurmur employed it before with the Rams and with the Packers, too. In his career, attesting to his coverage ability, In 1996 only Reggie White had more sacks on the Packers team that season. Even though he picked off a lot of passes was still better in the box.
The knock—Shorter career, but okay. Only four Pro Bowls, but was All-Pro as much as Troy Polamalu kind of an "honors oddity".
Odds of being voted in this year—25%
Alan Faneca, Guard – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets,
2010 Arizona Cardinals
The hype—Has all the credentials in terms of honors, All-Pro, Pro Bowls, ring. Will be a HOFer very soon. Could be this year, but if not, a 90% chance next year.
The knock—Really, it's just that if you read the testimonials, Steve Hutchinson gets more love. Was not the athlete Hutch was (smaller, slower, not as strong) but we're not drafting these guys, but the thing is Hutch was able to take freak athletic skill and use it to a slightly higher level than Faneca. Also, are they really going to put four Steelers in the HOF in one year?
Odds of being voted in this year—50%
Torry Holt, Wide Receiver – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars
The hype—Seven Pro Bowls, All-Pro once.
The knock—Was second banana to Isaac Bruce
Odds of being voted in this year—0%
Steve Hutchinson, Guard – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings,
2012 Tennessee Titans
The hype—As mentioned a freak athlete, bigger, faster, stronger, quicker than Faneca based on NFL Combine numbers. Blocked for four of the top rushing seasons since 1998 (two for Adrian Peterson, two for Shaun Alexander). Worked himself into good pass protector, was always dominant drive and trap blocker. A beast, he's in the John Hannah, Larry Allen, Zack Martin (and now Quenton Nelson) echelon of blockers. Faneca is the Gene Upshaw, Tom Mack level. Both great but Hutch a bit greater.
The knock—No ring.
Odds of voted in this year—90%
Edgerrin James, Running Back – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals,
2009 Seattle Seahawks
The hype—Had plenty of black ink (good rushing stats) but a great receiver and in our view one of the top 6-7 pass-blocking backs ever, right in the John Henry Johnson, Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Ladian Tomlinson-category.
The knock—Didn't get his "ring" and struggle with injuries as well, hurt his productivity some.
Odds of voted in this year—50%, will battle Isaac Bruce, we think, for a slot but both could make it
John Lynch, Free Safety – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos
The hype—A fine safety, played a long time but has lost momentum. The 49ers being in the Super Bowl may help. But of the safeties, we see Atwater and Butler as having more "hype". He has a ring and a lot of Pro Bowls, though. He was one of the last of the "big-hitters", a type of play that has been effectively removed from the game.
The knock—Didn't have a ton of picks.
Odds of voted in this year—20%
Sam Mills, Linebacker – 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers
The hype—A fine inside linebacker with good honors and stats (especially when you include his USFL seasons). Smart player, a leader.
The knock—No real knocks, it's just that when you look at his career you ask if it's Hall of Very Good or Hall of Fame?
Odds of voted in this year—10%
Troy Polamalu, Safety – 2003-2014 Pittsburgh Steelers
The hype—A rare and unique player with all the boxes checked. The JuniorSeau of safeties in terms of impact and the way they played, freelancers at times.
The knock—None really. Could be fooled, but all great players could be fooled once in a while. That's more of a nitpick.
Odds of voted in this year—Lock
Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle – 2001-08 New England Patriots,
2009-2012 Oakland Raiders
The hype—A great 5-tech on run downs and great 3-technique in passing downs. Has three rings, seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pros.
The knock—Stats are not eye-popping but that was the nature of his positions.
Odds of voted in this year—40%
Zach Thomas, Linebacker – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys
The hype—Five-time All-Pro, had a lot of tackles for a loss. A hustle-type, super-hard working.
The knock—None of his All-Pro seasons were consensus. The AP picked two inside linebackers from 1984-2015 so Thomas got the benefit of the doubt on all of them, was the second-leading vote-getter each time. The other two major teams, the PFWA and SN never had him as an All-Pro.
Odds of voted in this year—25%
Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver – 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts
The hype—A good receiver, some good credentials.
The knock—Was second banana to Marvin Harrison. (See Torry Holt)
Odds of being voted in this year—0%
Bryant Young, Defensive Tackle – 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers
The knock—Not tons of post-season honors (but when you add in Mike Giddings' opinion rating that rises quite a bit. Plays inside and again, like Seymour, voters have not valued the complete defensive tackle position much, going for skill positions and edge rushers much more often.
Odds of being voted in this year—20%