Darrelle Revis, Joe Thomas Headline PFHoF Semifinalists
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.
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