This may be impossible, but we’ll be optimistic because it’s nice to have hope. The NFL world recently witnessed the Hall of Fame game, followed by eight new enshrinements into Canton, glorifying a new group of football legends.
There are several talented players spread throughout the league who will join the likes of Bryant Young, Richard Seymour, Cliff Branch, Leroy Butler, Tony Boselli, and Sam Mills, plus many others, once they hang up the cleats.
So who are the players guaranteed to make the Hall of Fame, earning a gold jacket when their playing careers are done? We’ll cover those bases as well as try and project a future Hall of Fame player for all 32 NFL teams. Can it even be done? Find out down below.
- Future Cardinals Hall of Famer: J.J. Watt
The obvious future Hall of Famer on the Arizona Cardinals is none other than J.J. Watt. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner, Watt’s accomplishments pop off the page in many ways. His stats may have trailed off in recent years, but the dominance he showed early in his career is worthy of a gold jacket.
- J.J. Watt career stats: 102 sacks, 26 FF, 63 PD, 2 INT, 6 TD (3 on offense)
- Future Falcons Hall of Famer: Cordarrelle Patterson
One may not think the Atlanta Falcons have a surefire Hall of Fame player on their roster upon first glance. While Kyle Pitts started off his career with a bang, it’s actually return man extraordinaire Cordarrelle Patterson who holds the best chance to land in Canton someday. Patterson is tied for having the most kick return touchdowns in NFL history with eight, and his 29.4 yards per return average ranks third all-time.
- Future Ravens Hall of Famer: Justin Tucker
If Lamar Jackson can stay healthy, then he’ll get his bronze bust, but we’re a ways away from that. Calais Campbell is another vet who’s had a long stretch of solid play. While it may not be the sexy pick, a Hall of Fame player doesn’t have to be sexy. Kickers are football players too, and Justin Tucker has simply been the best kicker of our era. He has the best FG% of all time at 91.06%. Give him the gold jacket.
- Future Bills Hall of Famer: Von Miller
Josh Allen would have been my pick, had Von Miller not trashed those dreams. But how can we not give strip-sack Miller a place in Canton? He has 115.5 sacks in his career, with just three seasons in the single digits for QB takedowns. He’s also forced 26 fumbles in his ten years in the league, winning two Super Bowl rings along the way. Miller’s career has been nothing short of legendary.
- Future Panthers Hall of Famer: Christian McCaffrey
This might be a stretch, but sometimes a little imagination is needed to project ten years into the future. Christian McCaffrey hasn’t been able to stay on the field the past two seasons, but he’s still just 26 and if he can return to the 2,000-yard back he was in his third season, he could make up for lost time. For now his 3,587 career rushing yards aren’t impressive, but if he can have four-to-five strong seasons where he’s efficient running and receiving, CMC’s Hall of Fame career could still happen.
- Future Bears Hall of Famer: Robert Quinn
If we’re being 100% honest with ourselves, Robert Quinn is a longshot to reach the Hall of Fame. But if he can put up 18.5 sacks as a 31-year-old, we won’t rule out his chances just yet. Quinn is up to 101 sacks, and if he can have a couple more double-digit sack seasons, his case for Canton could gain some strong momentum.
- Future Bengals Hall of Famer: Ja’Marr Chase
This is nuts. We’re putting a second-year pro in the Hall of Fame. Some might think of Joe Burrow first, and that’s fair. But what Chase did as a rookie is unheard of. This dude had 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns at the age of 21. Just imagine if he has ten more 1,000-yard seasons. No one could slow him down when he didn’t even know what he was doing yet, what happens when he gains experience and more wisdom? This kid has Canton written all over him.
- Future Browns Hall of Famer: Myles Garrett
The one-man wrecking crew. Myles Garrett may be the best edge rusher today. It’s only been five seasons for Garrett, but he already has 58.5 sacks plus 11 forced fumbles and is still just 27. Taking him on one-on-one just can’t be done. We’ll likely see his Hall of Fame enshrinement once he decides to hang up the cleats.
- Future Cowboys Hall of Famer: Zack Martin
The Dallas Cowboys have had many Hall of Fame players rock the blue star on their helmets. They currently have another one in the trenches with Zack Martin. A seven-time Pro Bowler, he’s also been named to the All-Pro team five times in his eight seasons in the NFL. Martin just has to stay healthy for a few more seasons to guarantee a place in Canton.
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- Future Broncos Hall of Famer: Russell Wilson
It’s not every day that you can just trade for a Hall of Fame quarterback. That’s why it wasn’t easy to acquire Russell Wilson. A nine-time Pro Bowl QB, Russ already has one Super Bowl ring, if he can win another, his bust will already be in the works. His career TD-INT ratio is insane, with 292 TDs to just 87 interceptions. His interception rate ranks fifth-best all-time.
- Future Lions Hall of Famer: Aidan Hutchinson
How can a team that went just 3-13-1, finishing with the NFL’s worst record, have a Hall of Famer on the roster? That’s the thing, the Detroit Lions really don’t have a player worthy of a gold jacket right now. We looked at Amon-Ra St. Brown, Frank Ragnow, and T.J. Hockenson, but none of the three have been truly special in their brief time in the league thus far. Their hope is Aidan Hutchinson can surpass all expectations, becoming the second coming of J.J. Watt. We’ll see.
Green Bay Packers
- Future Packers Hall of Famer: Aaron Rodgers
Easy choice here. Aaron Rodgers is the man. You don’t win the MVP four times by accident. He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever lace them up. It’s a wonder that he only has one Super Bowl ring, but he’s always a threat to win another. He also has the best TD-INT ratio in NFL history. That’s quarterbacking at its finest.
- Future Texans Hall of Famer: Brandin Cooks
We have another longshot here with Brandin Cooks, but all he does is put up 1,000-yard seasons. In six out of his eight years in the NFL, Cooks has topped the 1K yardage mark, and he’s done so with four different teams. It doesn’t matter who’s slinging the rock, Cooks will put up numbers. Now 28, Cooks will likely need four to five more years producing similar to his career averages. But we won’t cast doubt on his ability.
- Future Colts Hall of Famer: Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan was a steady presence for 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, winning an MVP in 2016. While he’s only been named to one All-Pro team, and is a four-time Pro Bowl member, he’s racked up nearly 60,000 passing yards. That’s good for eighth all-time, and with just 3,705 more, he’ll reach sixth place. Another season and he’ll be fifth. If that’s not good enough for Canton, I don’t know what is.
- Future Jaguars Hall of Famer: Josh Allen
I warned that this exercise might be impossible, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are really testing my strength here. But Josh Allen is probably the best choice. Sure, there’s Trevor Lawrence, Travon Walker, or maybe Devin Lloyd, but Allen’s had the benefit of being the most impressive so far, simply because he’s been around longer.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Future Chiefs Hall of Famer: Patrick Mahomes
You already know. Mr. Ketchup man himself, Patrick Mahomes. He didn’t start as a rookie, he didn’t even play. But he didn’t need to. Whatever stats he finishes will likely be impressive, but in my mind, he’s already a Hall of Fame level player simply for changing the game. He brought the backyard ball back to the gridiron, showing shades of Brett Favre. I don’t think that’s how Andy Reid drew it up, but go with it, it’s incredible.
Las Vegas Raiders
- Future Raiders Hall of Famer: Chandler Jones
Davante Adams deserves consideration, and he’s the bigger name at this point in their respective careers, but Chandler Jones gets the edge simply because he’s had a longer career and still has very impressive accomplishments. With 107.5 career sacks and 33 forced fumbles, Jones has been ruining gameplans for over a decade. He’s 32 now, but is coming off a double-digit sack season. A few more strong years and he’s destined for the Hall of Fame.
Los Angeles Chargers
- Future Chargers Hall of Famer: Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack’s one of the most feared defenders of our time. His sack numbers may have tailed off the past couple years, but the hope is that he’s finally healthy again and ready for another double-digit year. Still, a former DPOY winner with 76.5 sacks and 23 forced fumbles is a good start, but the six-time Pro Bowl player may need a few more big years to land in Canton.
Los Angeles Rams
- Future Rams Hall of Famer: Aaron Donald
Not many players could threaten to retire at 31 and still have a rock solid case for the Hall of Fame. But Aaron Donald could. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, Donald now has a Super Bowl ring to add to his long list of accomplishments. Having averaged 12.25 sacks per year, Donald’s sack numbers will be impressive once he walks away, but he’s already up to 98 in his eight-year career.
- Future Dolphins Hall of Famer: Tyreek Hill
Tyreek Hill no doubt benefited from being a top option in the Kansas City Chiefs offense, but if he can continue his 1,000-yard efforts down in Miami, Cheetah can run all the way to Canton, where he’ll find his bronze bust when his career is done.
- Future Vikings Hall of Famer: Patrick Peterson
Some people forget just how good Patrick Peterson’s career has been. This is a cornerback who made eight-straight Pro Bowl teams and has been named a first-team All Pro three times. Peterson is rarely tested these days, and yeah he’s likely lost a step or two, but he’s no liability. We’ll see how he acclimates to being in a new defense yet again.
New England Patriots
- Future Patriots Hall of Famer: Matthew Slater
Can I pick a coach? Bill Belichick’s name is etched all over Canton, but he could have one of his best special teams players join him someday. That’s right, Matthew Slater is the pick. A player many fans don’t even know exists, but he’s a ten-time Pro Bowler, a five-time member of the All-Pro team, and has three Super Bowl rings. We’ll see how the Hall values special teams contributions that don’t involve scoring.
New Orleans Saints
- Future Saints Hall of Famer: Cameron Jordan
Cameron Jordan’s entering his age-33 season, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Having tallied 107 sacks and 137 tackles for loss, Jordan has the best chances of any current Saints player to reach the Hall.
New York Giants
- Future Giants Hall of Famer: Saquon Barkley
Have we all quickly forgotten how good Saquon Barkley can be? I don’t care about people thinking he has durability issues. I don’t buy it. Running back is a hard position to play, and he’s built for it more than anyone else. Barkley’s just 25 and has 2,000-yard potential from scrimmage. Of all the current Giants with experience, Barkley’s my choice for Canton.
New York Jets
- Future Jets Hall of Famer: Breece Hall
What? The New York Jets have done a good job reminding us they can’t all be winners. Picking a future Hall of Fame member from Gang Green is a crapshoot, but give me Breece Hall, only because he hasn’t failed yet. We’ll still buy the hype from college when Hall was one of the most unstoppable running backs in football.
- Future Eagles Hall of Famer: Jason Kelce
This was a toss-up between Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox. The latter is just one year removed from being a Pro Bowl player, but amazingly Kelce was that plus a first-team All-Pro center this past season. While Kelce may be closer to retirement now at 34, he’s still playing at an elite level.
- Future Steelers Hall of Famer: T.J. Watt
Just like his older brother J.J., T.J. Watt will be in the Hall of Fame when his career is done. We all hope that won’t happen any time soon, because seeing his dominant all-around play is a true spectacle. He’s led the NFL in sacks each of the past two seasons, winning DPOY last year and amazingly has 72 QB takedowns in just five years. Can he double that total in the next five? If so, that’s Canton-worthy.
San Franciso 49ers
- Future 49ers Hall of Famer: Trent Williams
There may not be a better left tackle from the past decade than Trent Williams. Making the Pro Bowl each of the past nine years, he’s still at his peak even at the age of 34. You’d be hard-pressed finding a lineman more worthy of a gold jacket than Williams.
- Future Seahawks Hall of Famer: DK Metcalf
Yeah, he’s only been in the NFL three seasons, but he’s racked up 3,170 yards in that span. Just 24, if Metcalf can stay healthy, which he certainly has the strength to take a hit, he should be able to have a long, productive career. We’ll see if he can still put up big numbers without Russell Wilson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Future Buccaneers Hall of Famer: Tom Brady
I don’t know. Do you think Tom Brady can someday be Hall of Fame material? We’ll see, right? Widely regarded as the G.O.A.T., Brady could have retired five years ago and still would have been a first-ballot HOFer.
- Future Titans Hall of Famer: Derrick Henry
Longevity is the name of the game for elite running backs. Derrick Henry is among the best right now, but how long can he sustain this level of play? He’s certainly built to last, but that doesn’t mean he will. Yet, I have no doubt that Henry will someday have a bust in Canton. What we saw in 2019 and 2020 was spectacular, his Jones fracture was an anomaly that he somehow quickly recovered from. This dude’s a Hall of Fame back.
- Future Commanders Hall of Famer: Chase Young
The Washington Commanders can’t wait to get Chase Young back for a full season. He flashed elite pass-rush abilities in his first season, taking home Rookie of the Year honors while making the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately injuries wrecked his second season, but he’s likely more motivated than ever to prove he’s one of the best edge rushers in football. We’ll see if he can put together a career worthy of ending up in Canton.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.