Deciding top Hall of Fame debates: Revis, Rivers, Eli, Beast Mode, more ESPN logo
Thursday, August 2, 2018

We assembled our NFL experts to form a five-person panel and make their preliminary selections on whether 10 debate-worthy candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be in or out. Majority vote ruled: If a candidate got three of five votes, he's in. We're featuring current and retired players, too.

Here's our panel: ESPN NFL writers and Pro Football Hall of Fame voters Mike Sando and Jeff Legwold, NFL writers Mina Kimes and Dan Graziano, and ESPN analytics writer Brian Burke.

Here are the guidelines they followed:

  • They made their votes informally and unofficially. There is much to debate among the Hall's board of selectors once players are nominated.
  • They voted on whether each candidate will make the Hall based on his currentrésumé, and they didn't note whether a candidate will get in on the first ballot.
  • We didn't consider players who are locks to make it to Canton. Sorry, current players such asTom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, retired players such asJason Witten and Joe Thomas, and veteran free agents such asAntonio Gates.
  • We didn't put a cap on the number of "yes" votes, as these players could be in separate classes after they retire.

Got it? OK, here we go, starting with the only player who got five votes from our panel. Skip to the bottom to cast your Hall of Fame votes.

Who's in

Jason Peters, OT

Résumé at a glance:

  • Signed by Bills as undrafted free agent in 2004; has played 14 seasons (Bills, Eagles)
  • Two first-team All-Pro appearances (2011 and 2013)
  • Four second-team All-Pro appearances (2007, 2008, 2010, 2014)
  • Nine Pro Bowls

The HOF case for Peters: Andy Reid called Peters "the best left tackle in football" after the Eagles acquired him from the Bills in 2009. Peters, whobegan his career as a tight end, has continued to state his case over the past nine seasons. He is freakishly athletic for his size (6-foot-4, 328 pounds) and, though hampered by injuries of late, continues to dominate opponents well into his 30s. A mentor and dedicated student of the game, Peters, who goes by the nicknames "The Bodyguard" and "The Franchise," has earned near-universal respect in his locker room and around the NFL. "I said, you need to change [your nickname] to the GOAT," his former teammate Vinny Curry once said. "He's automatically first-ballot Hall of Fame. There's no argument about that. And he's still out here working." -- Tim McManus, Eagles reporter

The verdict: 5 votes

The only unanimous selection by our panel, Peters has been first- or second-team All-Pro six times and has made nine Pro Bowls. Offensive linemen don't get stats, but that kind of recognition drives Hall of Fame résumés. Anyone who watched Peters play left tackle during his extensive prime saw a dominator who could wreck the man in front of him efficiently and quickly enough to allow his inner tight end to get out and block effectively at the second level. Longevity is one thing, but Peters remained an unstoppable monster well into his 30s.-- Graziano

Darrelle Revis, CB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No. 14 overall pick by Jets in 2007; played 11 seasons (Jets, Bucs, Patriots, Chiefs)
  • Four first-team All-Pro appearances (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014)
  • Seven Pro Bowls
  • 29 career INTs

The HOF case for Revis:What separated Revis from other highly decorated cornerbacks was his ability to shut down the opposing team's No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis, often with no safety help over the top. He dominated at the line of scrimmage with his bump-and-run technique and keen ability to read routes. The best example of the Revis Effect came in a 2010 wild-card game against the Colts, when he held Reggie Wayne (111 catches in the regular season) to one catch for 1 yard. Peyton Manning was so afraid of Revis that he targeted Wayne only once. The knock on Revis is that he finished with only 29 interceptions, which would be the fewest among corners in the Hall of Fame, but his coverage stats jump off the page. In 791 career targets, per Pro Football Focus, he allowed only 400 receptions -- a 51 percent completion rate. Revis might not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer because of questions about his longevity, but he belongs because he revolutionized the position. -- Rich Cimini, Jets reporter

The verdict: 4 votes

When Revis Island finally closed for good this summer, the debate that ensued wasn't over whether the famously well-compensated cornerback belonged in the Hall of Fame. It was over whether he was a first-ballot contender. At his peak, Revis was the best defensive back in the NFL; for several years, he ranked near the top. Revis played the game with a level of technique and intellect that enabled him to put the clamps on the league's best wide receivers, forever defining what it means to be a shutdown corner. -- Kimes

Terrell Suggs, OLB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No. 10 overall pick by Ravens in2003; has played 15 seasons (Ravens)
  • Seven Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro appearance (2010), one second-team All-Pro (2008)
  • 125.5 sacks (17th all time)
  • 2011 NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year

The HOF case for Suggs: The numbers indicate that Suggs is a Hall of Fame player. The only eligible pass-rusher in the top 16 of the NFL's all-time sacks list to not reach the Hall is Leslie O'Neal; Suggs ranks 17th. He has been among the most disruptive defenders of his era. He is the only active player with 900 tackles, 100 sacks and 30 forced fumbles. Suggs is also ranked third in career postseason sacks, with 12.5. "I think [Suggs] is one of the greats of all time -- not only for the Ravens but at his position," said former Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, a sure-fire Hall of Fame lineman. -- Jamison Hensley, Ravens reporter

The verdict: 3 votes

Suggs has been a driving force behind an all-time great defense that drove Super Bowl success for Baltimore in the absence of a top quarterback. He has the production, longevity (213 games) and accolades to factor in this discussion. Suggs has not been just a compiler -- at his best, he was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, which mitigates to some degree his low total of All-Pro selections. Suggs has not been just a pass-rusher. His 88 tackles for loss are more than that of Jason Taylor (76), Jared Allen (72.5), DeMarcus Ware (67.5), Julius Peppers (59.5), Dwight Freeney (39) and other notables. A nasty playing temperament adds to Suggs' appeal. -- Sando

Marshawn Lynch, RB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No. 12 overall pick by Bills in 2007; has played 10seasons (Bills, Seahawks, Raiders)
  • Five Pro Bowls, one first-team All Pro (2012) appearance, one second-team All-Pro (2014)
  • 10,003 rushing yards (31st all time)
  • 81 rushing TDs (18th all time)
  • Ranked in top five of total fantasy scoring for three straight seasons (2012-14)

The HOF case for Lynch:As productive as Lynch has been -- he could move into the top 25 of the NFL's all-time rushing list this season -- testimonials might be as important as the statistics to Beast Mode's case for the Hall of Fame. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee might as well have been speaking for the majority of NFL defenders when he said of Lynch in an interview with the team's website last year: "He's maybe the hardest guy I've ever tried to tackle. Not only his strength, his speed, his elusiveness, but just how he brings it throughout an entire game. He never stops." That rugged rushing style made Lynch the identity of the Seahawks' offense during the most successful stretch in team history, which included the franchise's only Super Bowl title and another conference championship. If a player's impact on the game as a whole is any sort of HOF credential, then voters should consider how many times they've heard a young running back identify Lynch as the player after whom they model their game. -- Brady Henderson, Seahawks reporter

The verdict: 3 votes

Lynch's total rushing yards make him a marginal case for a modern Hall of Fame running back, but a season or two more will put him in the neighborhood of enshrined runners such as Thurman Thomas, Marcus Allenand Marshall Faulk. As the heart of a Seattle offense that depended on his bruising style to complement a dominant defense, he won one Super Bowl and reached another. He might be most famous for a play on which his number wasn't called; if only the Seahawks had handed him the ball instead of throwing on the goal line, he might have two rings. Lynch's unforgettable style and signature Beast Mode run in a January 2011 playoff game seal the deal. -- Burke

Philip Rivers, QB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No.4 overall pick by Giants in 2004 (traded to Chargers); has played 14 seasons (Chargers)
  • Seven Pro Bowls, 2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
  • 342 passing TDs (sixth all time)
  • 50,348 passing yards (ninth all time)
  • 48,633 yards of total offense (ninth all time)
  • 94.8 passer rating (eighth all time)

The HOF case for Rivers: Durability and production are two things that stand out when evaluating Rivers as a candidate. Rivers, 36, has not missed a start since he took over as thestarter in 2006 -- a string of 201 consecutive starts, including playoffs, which makes him the NFL active leader. Rivers famously played with a torn ACL in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots in the 2007 playoffs. Rivers has shown no signs of slowing down, either. Aside from the highlights listed in therésumé above, he ranks seventh in NFL history with 4,171 completions and 10th in completion percentage (64.2 percent). Rivers is 106-86 (.552) as a starter, and he has led the Chargers to four AFC West titles and taken the team to the playoffs five times. -- Eric D. Williams, Chargers reporter

The verdict: 3 votes

We lean toward "yes" because Rivers was great for an extended period. That is where these discussions begin. How many times was the player among the very best at his position? Rivers is one of six players in NFL history with at least four seasons of triple-digit passer ratings on 400-plus attempts. Drew Brees (seven), Tom Brady (six), Peyton Manning (six), Aaron Rodgers (six), Steve Young (four) and Rivers (four) comprise that list. Unlike Eli Manning, who chose which team he would play for, Rivers joined a Chargers organization that was so dysfunctional that it fired coach Marty Schottenheimer following a 14-2 season. Additional postseason success would put Rivers over the top. -- Sando

Frank Gore, RB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No.65 overall pick by 49ers in 2005; has played 13 seasons (49ers and Colts; Dolphins in 2018)
  • Five Pro Bowls, one second-team All-Pro appearance(2006)
  • 14,026 rushing yards (fifth all time)
  • 3,226 rushing attempts(fifth all time)
  • 3,669 offensive touches (sixth all time)

The HOF case for Gore: All you have to do is look at the top 10 of the NFL's all-time rushing list to see that Gore is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Every retired player in the top 10 has made it. Gore is 76 yards shy of passing Curtis Martin for fourth on the list. He shouldbe a Hall of Famersimply based on his putting up 961 and 967 rushing yardsbehind a bad offensive linein two of his three seasons with the Colts.-- Mike Wells, Colts reporter

The verdict: 3 votes

At a time when teams are relying more and more on young running backs, the 35-year-old Gore stands alone. His longevity is key to his Hall of Fame case. Herushed for at least 1,000 yards in nine of his 13 seasons, and he will likely end his career as the league's fourth-leading rusher. Gore's detractors will point out that he was never regarded as the best back in the league, but he has been consistently good, averaging 4.35 yards per attempt despite his rushing volume. -- Kimes

Adam Vinatieri, K

Résumé at a glance:

  • Signed by Patriots as undrafted free agent in 1996; has played 22 seasons (Patriots, Colts)
  • Three Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro appearances (2002, 2004, 2014)
  • 2,487 points scored and 559 field goals (both second all time)
  • 337 career games (fifth all time), 30 career playoff games (second all time)

The HOF case for Vinatieri: This should be an easy call. Vinatieri, 45, will likely retire as the NFL's all-time leading scorer, as he enters this season just 58 points shy of passing Morten Andersen (2,544). Vinatieri has scored at least 93 points in 21 of his 22 NFL seasons. His résumé also includes four Super Bowl rings and 26 game-winning field goals, including two in Super Bowls. -- Mike Wells, Colts reporter

The verdict: 3 votes

We'll remember those two Super Bowl-winning kicks, but Vinatieri has kicked for four title teams. He was the kicker on the All-Decade team for the 2000s. When it's all said and done, ending up as the leading scorer in NFL history means something. You can stick around into your late 40s and take a run at that, but Vinatieri's performance in the biggest of spots for some of the very best teams stamps him as much more than a compiler. It makes him a good bet to become the fifth kicker inducted into the Hall of Fame.-- Graziano

Who's out

Eli Manning, QB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No. 1 overall pick by Chargers in 2004 (traded to Giants); has played 14 seasons (Giants)
  • Four Pro Bowls, two-time Super Bowl MVP (2007 and 2011)
  • 339 passing TDs (eighth all time)
  • 51,682passing yards (sixth all time)
  • 49,754 yards of total offense (seventh all time)
  • Started 210 consecutive games from 2004 to '17

The HOF case for Manning: The list of players who have won multiple Super Bowl MVPs is exclusive. It's Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and ... Eli Manning. Talk about elite company. This is what makes Manning's career special. His playoff performances are legendary in those two playoff runs, when he threw 15 touchdown passes and two interceptions. He took down the Packers (once with Brett Favre, once with Aaron Rodgers) and the big, bad Patriots with Brady and Bill Belichick twice. Also, Manning will finish his career in the top 10 of pretty much every major statistical category as he enters his 15th season as the Giants' starter. There have been ups and downs throughout his career, especially early and in the regular season, but Manning's overall résumé is impressive, especially in the postseason. -- Jordan Raanan, Giants reporter

The verdict: 2 votes

The HOF debate for Eli will be fiery,butManning's four Pro Bowl appearances will pale in comparison to his peers, and his career interceptions (228) will weigh heavily in the discussion as well. It's also important to note that he and Roethlisberger, who was also drafted in 2004 and has two Super Bowl titles,will likely be considered at roughly the same time, so that will potentially split some votes among the Hall's board of selectors. Ultimately, the voters will be asked if Manning was one of the best quarterbacks in an era of Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers and Roethlisberger. He could find himself the Jim Plunkett of his time, with two Super Bowl rings, a pretty good argument and no gold jacket. -- Legwold

James Harrison, OLB

Résumé at a glance:

  • Signed by Steelers as undrafted free agent in 2002; played 15 seasons (Steelers, Bengals, Patriots)
  • Two first-team All-Pro appearances (2008 and 2010), two second-team All-Pros (2007 and 2009)
  • Five Pro Bowls
  • 2008 NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year
  • 84.5 sacks (52nd all time)

The HOF case for Harrison: Harrison has more sacks in a Steelers jersey than any other player to don the black and gold, many of whom already own a Canton bust. He has many qualities typically found on a HOF résumé. He has a signature Super Bowl moment: the 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII. His game aged well, as Harrison set trends for late-30s conditioning and weightlifting. Harrison is beloved by Steelers fans and is one of the NFL's best success stories for undrafted players. -- Jeremy Fowler, Steelers reporter

The verdict: 2 votes

Harrison's résumé might add up to the proverbial"Hall of Really Good" status, as one of those productive, successful players with long careers who don't get the call for Canton. His sack total puts him well down the list; there are 14 retired players with at least 100 sacks who have not been enshrined and 10 more retired players with at least 90 sacks who have not been enshrined (a few aren't eligible just yet). While sacks certainly aren't everything, they have proven to be a powerful statistic when it comes to the Hall's board of selectors. Harrison had a high peak -- 36.5 sacks from 2008 to '10 -- but he reached double-digit sacks in only those three seasons, and he didn't have a 50-tackle season from 2010-17.-- Legwold

Carson Palmer, QB

Résumé at a glance:

  • No. 1 overall pick by Bengals in 2003; played 15 seasons (Bengals, Raiders, Cardinals)
  • Three Pro Bowls, one second-team All-Pro appearance (2015)
  • 46,247 passing yards (12th all time)
  • 294 passing TDs (12th all time)
  • 87.9 passer rating (19th all time)

The HOF case for Palmer: No ring? No problem. Palmer put up Hall of Fame-worthy numbers throughout his career. Everywhere you look to describe Palmer's career -- except for Super Bowls -- his case for a gold jacket strengthens. He ranks 12th in yards and touchdowns thrown -- two of the most illustrious lists in league history. All those ranked ahead of him either are in the Hall of Fame or are likely to end up in Canton. Palmer threw the second-most touchdowns by a quarterback to never start in a Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He's also one of four quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 100 touchdown passes for two different teams. The other three were Kurt Warner, Fran Tarkenton and Peyton Manning -- two Hall of Famers and a surefire inductee. -- Josh Weinfuss, Cardinals reporter

The verdict: 0 votes

Unfortunately for Palmer, he played in a golden age of NFL quarterbacks. His career overlapped with at least six other Hall of Fame passers -- two already in and four waiting or still playing. He was an efficient and effective passer, but this isn't the Hall of Efficiency. Palmer's teams had just four winning seasons in that span, and he played in only four playoff games, notching one win and one torn ACL. It's regrettable to say for such a reliable player, but this was an easy vote for our committee. -- Burke

Where did our panel get it wrong? Cast your votes

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