Darrelle Revis, Joe Thomas Headline HOF Semifinalists

Legendary Jets CB Darrelle Revis
Legendary Jets CB Darrelle Revis
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 12 - The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 28 modern-era semifinalists for the Class of 2023. Not surprisingly, Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas and New York Jets and New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, both overqualified candidates, both made the cut. There were, however, a few surprises, most notably first-time semifinalists Henry Ellard and London Fletcher.

Ellard was a deep-threat for the Rams and Washington who ranked third in all-time receiving yards with 13,777 (behind James Lofton and Jerry Rice) when he retired in 1998. Ellard got lost in the shuffle among wide receivers of his era like Lofton, Art Monk, Tim Brown and Cris Carter and never reached the finalist stage. Ellard is in his final year of modern-era eligibility.

Fletcher played 16 seasons for the Rams, Bills and Washington, earning four Pro Bowl berths late in his career. Fletcher's career was broadly similar to that of 2022 inductee Sam Mills, another undersized middle linebacker who played well for multiple organizations (as well as the USFL in Mills' case) whose candidacy slowly gained strength over the course of over a decade.

Long-time Chiefs and Raiders cornerback Albert Lewis, like Ellard, is in his final year of modern-era eligibility. Lewis played in great Chiefs secondaries of the 1980s which also included Kevin Ross and Deron Cherry.

Last-chance candidates like Lewis and Ellard often reach the finalist ballot so the selection committee can consider them before remanding their cases to the Senior committee. If Ellard does become a finalist, he may complicate the case of fellow Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, who is already log-jammed with Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne,

Other first-year eligible players making the cut besides Thomas and Revis include Jahri Evans, Dwight Freeney, and James Harrison.

Past finalists like Holt, Wayne, Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber and edge-rushers Jared Allen, Robert Mathis and DeMarcus Ware all made the semifinalist cut, as did Bears return specialist Devin Hester. Freeney's arrival could end up splitting the Mathis ticket and generally gumming up the vote among edge-rushers if he reaches the finalist stage.

Running backs Fred Taylor and Ricky Watters are once again semifinalists; both made the cut several times in the past, but neither has ever gone before the selection committee as a finalist. Taylor, a seven-time 1,000-yard rusher, could be the top priority for Jaguars voters now that Tony Boselli is in the Hall. He may also get extra attention with so few other running backs in the pipeline. Watters is also a seven-time 1,000-yard rusher, and his candidacy may be growing stronger as memories of what a pain-in-the-butt he was early in his career ("for who, for what?" was just the tip of the iceberg) have faded. 

The most shocking omission among potential semifinalists was Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams, a five-time All-Pro of "Williams Wall" fame. Williams appears to have both Hall of Fame credentials and fan support. He's a better candidate for consideration by the selection committee than, say, seven-time semifinalist Hines Ward, who is unlikely to ever crack the top 15 with so many other wide receivers (including notorious tough-guy Steve Smith) to choose from. 

Click the link below for the full 28-player list, and let us know what you think!  

View Full Article


24 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2022, 11:21am

#1 by theslothook // Nov 22, 2022 - 2:45pm

It may not sound like it, but it would be beyond egregious if Revis doesn't make it on the first ballot. I have argued that considering the era, he needs to get into the conversation for goat defender. 

For some reason everyone wants to discount players for their era and yet no one applies the opposite standard when the era has been brutal. It's never been harder to be a good cornerback and/or a consistent cornerback. And revis was unabashedly the defender on a defense that finished number one. The coach was not shy about what what his assignment would be every week. 

There have been great corners since I've been watching but none who have crossed and checked so many boxes to leave little doubt about how great a player was.


During the off-season I've been watching some of these older games you can find on YouTube. I need to watch a vintage Deion game from the past to get a sense of what he was like. It's also been on my radar to watch a vintage Deacon Jones or Alan Page game, but those are much harder to find.

Points: 0

#6 by Mike Tanier // Nov 22, 2022 - 3:50pm

My gut tells me that Thomas and Revis make the first ballot, but the committee won't bother debating Revis but will want to hear the Revis argument. 

Points: 1

#9 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 22, 2022 - 4:27pm

During my time watching, only Deion was actually as good as Revis, and of course Darrell Green was damn near as good for a very, very long time. I think Revis gets in first ballot, no problem.

Points: 1

#2 by Bryan Knowles // Nov 22, 2022 - 2:53pm

Alongside Thomas and Revis, obvious picks, I'd like to see Jahri Evans, Dwight Freeney and James Harrison make the final ballot.  I don't think I'd put any of those three in this year with the backlog of players already there, but I'd like to see all three at least make the room for discussion; start building that case.

I'd also like to see Henry Ellard make the final ballot. He's gotten bumped up to semifinalist status this year because it's his last year of eligibility as a modern-era finalist.  I don't think he should leapfrog the pretty significant backlog of receivers ahead of him; hard to argue him over Holt/Johnson/Smith/Wayne in a vacuum, and it's not like Ellard has been a constant presence on these sorts of lists.  But make him a finalist, get people to remember what he could do, and you start building the case for a veterans' committee selection at some point

Points: 0

#3 by robbbbbb // Nov 22, 2022 - 3:32pm

If I'm picking five guys from this year's class it's:

Joe Thomas
Darelle Revis
Steve Smith
Devin Hester
Dwight Freeney

Points: 0

#20 by dbostedo // Nov 23, 2022 - 12:38pm

Devin Hester? Ugh. I don't care how dangerous a returner he was. 

Points: 1

#4 by theslothook // Nov 22, 2022 - 3:36pm

Mike, Tanier, if you are reading this, could you please divulge what the Hall of Fame gripe against Kevin Williams is? Was he regarded as soft for a defensive tackle or were all of his sacks on cleanup plays?

Points: 0

#5 by Mike Tanier // Nov 22, 2022 - 3:49pm

No idea. I will try to ask around when I poll voters after Finalists are announced. 

Points: 0

#15 by Pat // Nov 22, 2022 - 8:12pm

Clearly it's because he didn't have enough All Pro votes. I mean, look how many you need at WR to get in *gigantic eye roll*.

Points: 0

#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 22, 2022 - 4:34pm

I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.

We're going to look back next year and marvel at how many Hall voters died mysteriously in 2022 of crushing-related injuries.

Points: 0

#16 by Pat // Nov 22, 2022 - 8:15pm

It's amazing how the Hall voters keep making my job demonstrating how biased they are against linebackers, inside OL, and inside DL.

It's just undeniable at this point. I mean, sure, go ahead, vote in an RB with one Pro Bowl who I barely remember. Whatever.

Points: 0

#7 by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 22, 2022 - 3:56pm

My list of 5:


Joe Thomas

Zach Thomas (finally)

Torry Holt (also finally)

Ronde Barber (bury me on this hill I have been willing to die on these long years past)

Points: 0

#8 by theslothook // Nov 22, 2022 - 4:15pm

Can I ask why Holt over Allen or Ware?

I would also rather put Allen and Ware over Thomas, but Thomas is a good candidate who is being treated as a marginal one so I'm happy get him now so he doesn't become forgotten.


His merits notwithstanding, Revis' presence means Ronde is effectively being punted due to the unofficial blood oath precluding duplicate positions on the ballot. Except In the case of Dan Marino and Steve Young, at which point the mob of pitchforks and burning effigies were ready to turn it into a crater unless that rule was amended that one time.

Points: 0

#11 by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 22, 2022 - 4:51pm

Holt purely because he's had quite the wait, and to clear out the WR backlog a bit.  There's undoubtedly some Greatest Show on Turf nostalgia, but Holt was insanely good that year; 1600+ yards, 19.9 yards per catch, first of 8 straight 1100 yard+ seasons, and he was just damn good, and he's to me the next WR in the pipe, presuming he's ever getting in.  Ware and Allen do have to worry about Suggs and Peppers coming down the line, but the "good DE" backlog feels a lot shorter than "good WR".

As for Zach Thomas, I really kind of feel like he and Ronde are in the same category of Great but Unsexy; neither has that huge personality that draws attention, and neither got "the good stats".  Thomas was an off-the-ball linebacker, and he was really good at all the things that aren't splash plays; he could run, cover, tackle, was smart, was always in the right spot, played great, but only had 17 INTs and 20.5 sacks.  Ronde was the dreaded Zone Corner, but he was a phenomenal blitzer, incredibly smart, was one of the best-tackling DBs I've ever seen, but, while 47 INTs is certainly good, he didn't shut down a side of the field like Revis or Deion, and his insanely high sack and TD numbers get handwaved away because "he was just a zone guy".

And, yes, there's clearly fanboi-ing going around with my appreciation of Ronde, but I do think both he and Zach Thomas were great at things that just weren't that exciting compared to a lot of players.  


Points: 0

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 22, 2022 - 5:19pm

was one of the best-tackling DBs I've ever seen, but, while 47 INTs is certainly good, he didn't shut down a side of the field like Revis or Deion

Granted, unlike Deion, he could actually tackle.

Points: 1

#13 by Raiderfan // Nov 22, 2022 - 6:10pm

Revis—no brainer and I thInk that will cancel out the other DBs

JThomas—no brainer 

Jared Allen—and then Ware gets in next year

SSS— I think he is the best of the WRs.  Put up great numbers on not very good passing teams

ZThomas—too many First Team All Pros not to make it.

Points: 0

#14 by Spanosian Magn… // Nov 22, 2022 - 7:25pm

My ballot:

Jared Allen
Ronde Barber
Darrelle Revis
Joe Thomas
DeMarcus Ware

But I predict it will be:

London Fletcher
Dwight Freeney
Devin Hester
Darrelle Revis
Joe Thomas

Points: 0

#17 by Pat // Nov 22, 2022 - 9:24pm

"Taylor, a seven-time 1,000-yard rusher, could be the top priority for Jaguars voters now that Tony Boselli is in the Hall."

What's the reasoning here? Look, guys, we know our team sucked and barely won anything, but *someone* else from our team has to be in the Hall, right? Right??

No one ever thought Fred Taylor was one of the best backs in the league. Him being a semifinalist is just nuts.

Points: 0

#18 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 23, 2022 - 8:28am

All anyone thought was that *this* was the year he wouldn't get hurt, so I'll draft him in my fantasy league.


This is very much in danger of becoming the Hall of Big Names. Oh, wait, Lynn Swann is already there!

Points: 0

#19 by BlueStarDude // Nov 23, 2022 - 12:15pm

At the risk of taking this all too seriously: Swann's induction is far from beyond criticism, but he was a star whose reach extended beyond football to the larger culture. Putting him and Taylor into the same category—no. 

Points: 0

#24 by RickD // Dec 01, 2022 - 11:21am

Swann's historical importance just cannot be overlooked.  The Steelers of the 70s were instrumental in elevating the NFL to the most popular professional sports league in the US, and the Lynn Swann Sports Illustrated covers were a huge part of that.  

With Swann and Joe Namath, the Fame part of "Hall of Fame" becomes more important. 

Points: 0

#21 by liquidmuse3 // Nov 24, 2022 - 7:22pm

He’s in the top-15 rushers of all time. Plenty of running backs below him made the HOF, & the only reason he didn’t finish top-5 or 10 is because of the injuries; if we essentially put Sayers & T. Davis in because “oh, imagine if no injuries”, why does Taylor get punished for being MORE productive while healthy? Even Jim Brown said Fred was essentially the best RB he’d ever seen. No one had the power/moves/size/speed combo he did. I can’t believe this site rightly eschews Pro Bowls yet essentially the only argument here is “he only had one”.

Points: 0

#22 by laurin // Nov 25, 2022 - 6:18am

Gale Sayers and Terrell Davis got in the HOF because, despite their short careers, they played at an MVP level every time they weren't injured, not because of “oh, imagine if no injuries” like you are claiming.

Fred Taylor at his peak barely produced like a top 5 RB if that. It is insane that we even need to have this conversation for a player who wasn't ever a top 3 player at their position in any year of their career and who never hit the "elite" milestones of 2000 yards/ 20 TDs for a season or 15000 yards/85 TDs for a career.

Points: 1

#23 by Pat // Nov 25, 2022 - 10:11am

Let me be clear: I don't have a problem if you think Fred Taylor should be in.

I have a problem if you think Fred Taylor should be in and Kevin Williams should not. (Williams is the easiest: I could also list Pat Swilling, Hardy Nickerson, Tom Nalen, etc.)

The Hall is wacko-small. I can make arguments *for* many, but it really means you need to make arguments *against* others. And of course since numbers are numbers, anyone *with* numbers has an advantage.

Finding someone who says "he was the best X" is nothing. No one comes out and says "eh, just a guy." You get accolades like that for everyone.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Mike
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Mike Tanier. Use promo code TANIER to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Mike.