Sports NFL Hall of Fame tiers: Ranking the best active players at every position, from locks (Aaron Rodgers) to fringe (Matthew Stafford)
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With the Class of 2022 being enshrined in Canton, there are now 362 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Looking at the best current players in the NFL, it won't be too long before the prestigious list expands to 400.
Starting with the quarterbacks — and the two biggest no-brainers for future gold jackets — here's looking at the most accomplished active players (not including free agents) at every position to find the top candidates to go from boom to bronze bust.
The "locks" are players who don't need to play another down and would still be in Canton.
The "fringe" are players who have some case but have unfinished business to make their careers Hall-worthy.
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Finally, the "watchlist" features young rising stars who have a favorable trajectory to the Hall of Fame based on their early paths:
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The locks: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes
The first two will be on the heels of Drew Brees. Wilson has the ring and put in a terrific decade with Seahawks before the Broncos reboot. Mahomes hasn't been in the league for long, but his rare impact as leader of the young guns cements his status early.
The fringe: Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford
Ryan has the regular-season MVP to go along with an NFC championship. Stafford doesn't have the big individual honor, but he has prolific passing numbers and the Super Bowl ring They each need several more top seasons with necessary accolades on their second teams to get into Canton.
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The watchlist: Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson,
Allen is a future MVP and Jackson already is a past one. Herbert and Burrow have that profile as contemporaries, too. Prescott can put up a lot more big numbers and rack up wins if healthy. If no one has issues putting in Ben Roethlisberger, then Watson has a fair chance with several prime seasons in Cleveland.
The lock: Derrick Henry
At a modern position where it's hard to stand out, Henry has that throwback appeal. He is a modern powerful workhorse with some massive numbers in a short time.
The fringe: Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott
Kamara and Elliott both have varied off-field issues, but they've both produced since consistently since they were rookies with relative durability.
The watchlist: Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler
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Taylor and Harris have started with a bang. The others have flashed some top-flight play at the position, so it's matter of staying healthy and having enough time to put up worthy stats in the committee era.
The locks: A.J. Green, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, Mike Evans
Green and Jones are near the end, but they have been tied together with elite play as high 2011 first-round picks. Hopkins, Adams and Hill also have joined special status since. Allen and Evans have sneaky strong resumes playing for only one team.
The fringe: Cooper Kupp, Jarvis Landry, Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas
Kupp has ascended to best wideout in the NFL with his monster 2021, but that's only his third full season and he's 29 with some injury history. He will need to play well into his 30s with more great years to have a real shot.
Landry, Cooper and Cooks have a baseline of consistent numbers to put them in the conversation, but they are all hurt by being on more than two teams. Diggs has a chance on his second team playing with Allen until the end of his career. Thomas needs to pick up where he left off, stat.
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The watchlist: Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, CeeDee Lamb, Terry McLaurin
This represents the exciting new wave, with Jefferson and Chase, former LSU teammates, having spectacular starts to their career.
The lock: Travis Kelce
Kelce will be following Rob Gronkowski into the Hall, but there will be a few seasons of separation.
The fringe: Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews, George Kittle
They have been productive receivers but health and durability to keep putting up Canton-caliber numbers are key. Kittle might have the best chance given his blocking dominance.
The watchlist: Kyle Pitts
Pitts started his career with a rare 1,000-yard season for the position, living up to his rare No. 4 overall selection for the position.
The locks: Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Jason Kelce, Joel Bitonio
Williams has confirmed his status with his 49ers' excellence. Smith and Martin were on track early as Cowboys teammates. The Kelces will be part of the brothers breakthrough in the Hall. Bitonio is like Marshal Yanda, an unheralded blocker who will get the ultimate honor.
The fringe: Brandon Scherff, Jack Conklin, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley
Scherff did plenty well with the Commanders but now needs to pop more with the Jaguars to have a shot. Conklin has been solid moving from Tennessee to Cleveland, but he also needs health and longevity to complete his case. Bakhtiari needs a few more healthy seasons in front of Rodgers. Linsley has stamped his play at center by raising his game with the Chargers.
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The watchlist: Quenton Nelson, Creed Humphrey, Rashawn Slater, Jonah Jackson, Tristan Wirfs, Elgton Jenkins
There's plenty of fine young talent up front and it's diverse with athletes for inside run blocking and outside pass protection. These six belong on the radar most.
The locks: Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Fletcher Cox, Calais Campbell
Donald and Watt will be first-ballot guys. Cox and Campbell will have a short wait at worst.
The fringe: Cameron Heyward, DeForest Buckner, Chris Jones
Heyward hasn't had a flashy career but he's been quietly dominant and has padded with resume some significant sack seasons to push for consideration late. Buckner, after a slow start, has emerged with four consecutive big years with the 49ers and Colts. Jones is also on his way best on the past four seasons with the Chiefs.
The watchlist: Vita Vea
Former linemate Ndamukong Suh should get into Canton. Vea can launch from a nasty breakout 2021 to start building his case.
The locks: Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Cameron Jordan, Chandler Jones
Mack looks rejuvenated with the Chargers after nailing down the Hall with the Raiders and Bears. Miller already was there as a Bronco and is piling on as a Ram and Bill. Jordan is a likable force and another welcome Saint. Jones' rebound big season with the Cardinals was the final push he needed.
The fringe: Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa
Garrett and Watt just need to stay healthy to keep performing in the AFC North. Bosa has put it together the past three seasons and has plenty left.
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The watchlist: Nick Bosa, Maxx Crosby, Chase Young, Rashan Gary
The other Bosa is the premier young pass rusher, while his former Ohio State teammate Young is trying to live up to that level. Crosby and Gary needed some time to bloom but they're off and running as two more promising sack artists.
The locks: Bobby Wagner, Shaquille Leonard
Wagner is going for a second ring with the Rams after he had an awesome career in Seattle as Luke Kuechly's key contemporary. The former Darius Leonard has done plenty in a short time as a current Colt.
The fringe: Lavonte David
David has been a bit up and down with his health and production, but in the big picture, there's a case to be made with another solid season or two.
The watchlist: Fred Warner, Devin White, Micah Parsons
Warner is just as indispensable as Nick Bosa to the 49ers' front seven. White is developing into a superstar. Parsons showed early he is one.
The locks: Jalen Ramsey, Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, Stephon Gilmore
Ramsey is the veteran shutdown corner of choice and will be there, helped by his more marquee time with the Rams. Smith's prolific playmaking as a beloved leader with one team will get him there. Peterson and Gilmore are starting to bounce around, but the credentials remain.
The fringe: Xavien Howard, Darius Slay, Budda Baker, Kevin Byard
These two accomplished corners and two active safeties have done enough to get into the conversation.
The watchlist: Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, Jessie Bates, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tre'Davious White, Derwin James, Marcus Williams
This is a reminder there's a lot of good young and versatile secondary talent to monitor. That only got increased by the 2022 NFL Draft.
The locks: K Justin Tucker
Tucker continues to carry the torch for fellow now retired lock Adam Vinatieri.
The fringe: K Robbie Gould, K Mason Crosby, WR Matthew Slater, P Johnny Hekker
Gould and Crosby have the volume and longevity, but that's probably not enough in either case. Slater should get more attention to join his father Jackie in the Hall, but then again, Steve Tasker still isn't in Canton. Hekker has an outside shot to be the second and next guy at punter after Ray Guy.
The watchlist: K Harrison Butker, K Evan McPherson, P Michael Dickson
Butker and McPherson are off to big starts with their booming legs in high-octane offenses. Dickson needs to keep it up as a punting wunderkind so Australia gets representation in the Hall.
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