Hall of Fame 2023 finalists: Our best guess on selections from strongest class in decades

Oct 15, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas (73) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas (73) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The list of 15 modern era finalists for 2023 class of Pro Football Hall of Fame is the strongest from top to bottom I have seen in three decades on the selection committee. Without doubt, there will be players worthy of induction who do not make it this year. 

This awesome Class of 2023’s Modern-Era candidates includes three first year eligibles - defensive end Dwight Freeney, cornerback Darrelle Revis and offensive tackle Joe Thomas, two of whom are strong candidates even on this list. That would be the two who performed sensationally on an island, Thomas at left tackle and Revis at cornerback.

While all of them are notable, those who MAY be most notable include (along with Revis and Thomas):

 --The best return man in NFL history, Devin Hester, in his second year of eligibility and second year as a finalist.

Zach Thomas

 --The little big man who kept quarterbacks awake before games, linebacker Zach Thomas, in his tenth year of eligibility and fourth as a finalist.

 --Wide receiver Torry Holt, another star from the Rams' Fastest Show on Turf,  in his ninth year of eligibility and fourth as a finalist

 --Pass rush demon DeMarcus Ware, whom Joe Thomas cited Wednesday night as a defender he feared most, in his second year of eligibility and second as a finalist.

Upon further review, I could easily sub out other candidates for each of them, such as wide receiver Andre Johnson, who joined Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson as the only receivers to lead the league in receiving three times. Good company. Johnson did this despite consistently catching passes from a series of quarterback who aren't expected to be on Hall of Fame ballots.

And there is cornerback Albert Lewis, in his 20th year of eligibility but only his first as a finalist. His career with the Kansas City Chiefs and Raiders included 42 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 12.5 sacks and 11 blocked punts.

Mmmm. There is also the impressive resume of versatile defensive back Ronde Barber, who played corner, safety, and quasi-linebacker while starting 215 games over 16 seasons and collected 47 regular season interceptions, 923 return yards with eight touchdowns. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks. He is in his sixth year of eligibility and third as a finalist.

OK, this clearly is not going to be easy.

Regardless, those are the picks here on January 15, 2023, before the selection committee convenes to pare down the list to the Class of 2023. We will endorse all the senior and coach/contributor nominees (see below). Again the top modern era picks here, based on our own perspective at this time are:

1. Darrell Revis, CB, first-year eligible.

2. Joe Thomas, OT, first-year eligible.

3. Devin Hester, KR/WR, second-year eligible.

4. Zach Thomas, LB, tenth-year eligible.

5. Torry Holt, WR, ninth-year of eligibility.

6. Demarcus Ware, Edge, second-year eligible.

7. Andre Johnson, WR, second-year eligible.

8. Albert Lewis, CB, 20th-year eligible.

9. Ronde Barber, DB, sixth-year eligible.

That's the call here, just to be on the record. There is plenty of room for discussion. Consider the results of a poll of 383 football people by HOF selector Jason Cole, of Outkick and Fansided. That list, without comment:

1. Darrelle Revis 226 59%

2. Joe Thomas 225 58.7%

3. Dwight Freeney 187 48.8%

4. DeMarcus Ware 150 39.2%

5. Devin Hester 140 36.6%

6. Torry Holt 127 33.2%

7. Zach Thomas 120 31.3%

8. Reggie Wayne 104 27.2%

9. Andre Johnson 102 26.3%

10. Jared Allen 89 23.2%

11. Darren Woodson 87 22.7%

12. Ronde Barber 86 22.5%

13. Patrick Willis 69 18.0%

14. Willie Anderson 61 15.9%

15. Albert Lewis 38 9.9%

The candidates in the Modern-Era Player category will be considered when the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee meets via Zoom prior to Super Bowl LVII. The Class of 2023 will be unveiled publicly Feb. 9 during the “NFL Honors" show, broadcast from Phoenix on NFL Network, NBC and Peacock.
 The Selection Committee may elect up to five Modern-Era Players for the Class of 2023; each must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent for election. Four others - Seniors category Finalists Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley, along with Coach/Contributor Finalist Don Coryell - are also candidates for the Class of 2023. Voting on each of those four will be held individually, in conjunction with the meeting to decide which Modern-Era Players are elected.
Below is an alphabetical list of the modern era finalists, followed by a fleshed out presentation that includes facts and figures:
Is your favorite HOF candidate here? Let the debates begin.



HOF Finalist: 3 | Year of Eligibility: 3
Position: Defensive End
Ht: 6-6, Wt: 270
NFL Career: 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings,
2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers
Seasons: 12, Games: 187
College: Idaho State
Drafted: 4th Round (126th Overall), 2004
Born: April 3, 1982, in Dallas, Texas
Buck Buchanan Award winner and Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year out of Idaho State… Fourth-round draft pick (126th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs … 12-year NFL career, started 181 of 187 career games … Member of the Carolina Panthers 2015 NFC Championship team … Started in Super Bowl 50; amassed one tackle and one QB hit … Led the NFL in sacks twice (2007, 2011) … 2007 Kansas City Chiefs Team MVP … NFL Alumni Player of the Year, 2009 … Career Stats: six interceptions, a fumble recovery for TD, 58 passes defensed and 136 sacks … Tied NFL record for career safeties, four … Five Pro Bowl nods (2008-2010, 2012-13) … Named First-Team All-Pro four times 2007-09, 2011.

HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 10
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht: 6-5, Wt: 340
NFL Career: 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens
Seasons: 13, Games: 195
College: Auburn
Drafted: 1st Round (10th Overall), 1996
Born: July 11, 1975 in Whistler, Ala.
Made an immediate impact as a rookie for the Bengals – named to the 1996 All-Rookie Team (PFWA)… Possessed not only the size a tackle needed to excel, but also the speed, strength and humility, allowing him to dominate at his position … Known as a strong run blocker and resilient pass blocker during the entirety of his 13-year tenure in the NFL … Considered an elite right tackle during his career and successfully held back such NFL sack leaders as Hall of Famers John Randle, Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan and Reggie White … Blocked for nine 1,000-yard rushers, as well as Corey Dillon’s two NFL record-breaking games: 246 yards for the rookie record and 278 yards for the all-time record that stood for nearly three years … Started in 184 of his 195 career games … First-team All-Pro honors from 2004-06; second-team All-Pro in 2003 … Received All-AFC recognition in 2005 and 2006 … Voted to four consecutive Pro Bowls – the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 games … Received the Ed Block Courage Award in 2004.

HOF Finalist: 3 | Year of Eligibility: 6
Position: Cornerback/Safety
Ht: 5-10, Wt: 186
NFL Career: 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seasons: 16, Games: 241
College: Virginia
Drafted: 3rd Round (66th overall), 1997
Born: April 7, 1975, in Montgomery County, Va.
Combined durability with productivity … Played in 241 regular-season games over 16 seasons …Started 215 consecutive regular-season games (224 counting postseason) … Finished career with 47 regular-season interceptions for 923 return yards and eight touchdowns — all Tampa Bay franchise records … Totaled 14 defensive and special teams touchdowns (8 INT, 4 FR and 2 on deflected punts) … Twice intercepted three passes in a game and six times forced at least two turnovers in a game … NFL’s all-time leader in sacks for cornerback … Only player in NFL history with a least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks … Three-time All-Pro … Selected to five Pro Bowls … Member of NFL’s AllDecade Team of the 2000s … Led NFL with 10 interceptions in 2001 … Led Buccaneers in interceptions six times … Voted team captain nine times … Buccaneers’ winner of Ed Block Courage Award in 2011 … Full name is Jamael Oronde Barber.

HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 1
Position: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Ht: 6-1, Wt: 268
NFL Career: 2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14 San Diego Chargers,
2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017 Detroit Lions
Seasons: 16, Games: 218
College: Syracuse
Drafted: 1st Round (11th Overall), 2002
Born: Feb. 19, 1980, in Hartford, Conn.
Drafted in first round (11th overall) in 2002 NFL Draft after leading the nation in sacks (17.5) his senior season at Syracuse … Named Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year while earning All-American recognition … Ran a 4.38-second- 40 yard dash in pre-draft workouts … Selected to 2002 NFL AllRookie Team after recording 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss … Seven Pro Bowl selections (2004-06, 2009-2012) … AP first-team All-Pro in 2004, 2005 and 2009; second-team All-Pro in 2003 … Named All-AFC by PFWA 2003-05 and 2009-2010 … Secured NFL Sack Title with 16 in 2004 … Member of the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI championship team and played in two additional Super Bowls (XLIV, LI) … Played in 218 regular-season games over 16 seasons in NFL … Career stat totals: 125.5 sacks, 148 quarterback hits and 128 tackles for loss … Credited with 47 forced fumbles (tied for fourth on the NFL’s all-time list) and forced three fumbles in a game on two occasions.

HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 2
Position: Punt Returner/Kick Returner/Wide Receiver
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 190
NFL Career: 2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens
Seasons: 11, Games: 156
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: 2nd Round (57th Overall), 2006
Born: Nov. 4, 1982, in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Multi-dimensional player who joined Bears after college career as offensive, defensive and special teams threat … Became immediate standout as return specialist, earning spot on 2006 NFL All-Rookie Team … In debut season, returned 47 punts for 600 yards (both NFL highs) and three TDs, along with 20 kickoffs for 528 yards and two touchdowns … Also returned a missed field goal that season for a 108-yard touchdown – one of only five such “kick-six” scores in an NFL game. … Opened Super Bowl XLI with 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the only time in Super Bowl history that has occurred … In second NFL season, returned four kickoffs and two punts for scores, establishing an NFL record for six combined kick returns for TDs … First-team All-Pro three times (2006-07, 2010) … Member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s … One of two return specialists on the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

HOF Finalist: 4 | Year of Eligibility: 9
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht: 6-0, Wt: 200
NFL Career: 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars
Seasons: 11, Games: 173
College: North Carolina State
Drafted: 1st Round (6th Overall), 1999
Born: June 5, 1976, in Greensboro, N.C.
Named team’s Rookie of the Year after catching 52 passes for 788 yards and 6 TDs to help Rams to Super Bowl title … Had 11 catches for 109 yards and a TD in Rams’ 23-16 victory over Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV … Eight consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons (2000-07) … Careerbest 117 catches for 1,696 yards and 12 TDs in 2003 …. Had 10 games with 100 or more yards in 2003 … Led NFL in receptions in 2003 and receiving yardage in 2000 and 2003 … Recorded 80 or more catches in a season eight consecutive years … Led Rams in receptions seven years in a row (2002-08) … Rams’ leading receiving yardage leader a record nine times … 920 career receptions for 13,382 yards and 74 TDs …. Named All-Pro in 2003 and to the second team in 2006 … All-NFC twice … Voted to seven Pro Bowls … Selected to NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 2
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht: 6-3, Wt: 229
NFL Career: 2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans
Seasons: 14, Games: 193
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: 1st Round (3rd Overall), 2003
Born: July 11, 1981, in Miami, Fla.
Surpassed 1,000 receiving yards seven times (2004, 2006, 2008-2010, 2012-13) … Led NFL in receptions twice (103 in 2006 and 115 in 2008) and in receiving yards twice (1,575 yards in 2008 and 1,569 yards in 2009) … One of only three players (Jerry Rice, Calvin Johnson) to lead NFL in receiving yards in consecutive seasons … Finished career with 1,062 receptions for 14,185 yards and 70 receiving touchdowns … Texans franchise leader in most receiving statistics … Caught five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown as Texans beat Cincinnati in first playoff appearance (2011); followed the next week with eight receptions for 111 yards in narrow loss to Ravens … Three career games with 200+ receiving yards … First-team All-Pro twice (2008-09) … Selected to seven Pro Bowls (2004, 2006, 2008-10, 2012-13) … Member of 2003 NFL All-Rookie Team … First player elected to Texans’ Ring of Honor (2017).

HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 20
Position: Cornerback
Ht: 6-2, Wt: 196
NFL Career: 1983-1993 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-1998 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Seasons: 16, Games: 225
College: Grambling State
Drafted: 3rd Round (61st Overall), 1983
Born: Oct. 6, 1960, in Mansfield, La.
Immediate contributor to Kansas City Chiefs’ secondary with four interceptions as a rookie after collegiate career at Grambling State … Selected in third round of the 1983 NFL Draft (61st overall) …Established himself as starter entering second season and anchored left cornerback position for nearly the next decade … Picked off career-high eight passes in 1985 … Named team MVP in 1986 after totaling four interceptions and 69 tackles. … Helped Chiefs reached AFC Championship Game in final season in Kansas City (1993) with six interceptions in regular season … Played five seasons with Raiders, capping career in 1998 with lone pick-six of his career, a 74-yard return that gave him distinction as oldest player in NFL history (38 years, 26 days) to score a defensive touchdown … Career totals include 42 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 12.5 sacks and an NFL-record 11 blocked punts.

HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 1
Position: Cornerback
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 198
NFL Career: 2007-2012 New York Jets, 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers,
2014 New England Patriots, 2015-16 New York Jets, 2017 Kansas City Chiefs
Seasons: 11, Games: 145
College: Pittsburgh
Drafted: 1st Round (14th Overall), 2007
Born: July 14, 1985, in Aliquippa, Pa.
Selected 14th overall in the first round 2007 of the NFL Draft by the New York Jets … Started at cornerback all 16 games for the Jets during his rookie season, earning him a spot on the PFWA AllRookie Team … Started at left cornerback for New England and had one sack and one solo tackle in the Patriots’ 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX … First-team All-Pro honors four seasons (2009-2012) … Elected to participate in seven Pro Bowls (2009-2012, 2014-16) … Named to the NFL’s AllDecade Team of the 2010s … New York Jets’ team MVP in 2009 and 2011 … Finished his 11-year NFL career with 29 interceptions, with three returned for touchdowns, and 139 passes defensed. In 2009, led the NFL in passes defensed with 31 … Second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2009.

HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 1
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht: 6-6, Wt: 312
NFL Career: 2007-2017 Cleveland Browns
Seasons: 11, Games: 167
College: Wisconsin
Drafted: 1st Round (3rd Overall), 2007
Born: Dec. 4, 1984, in Brookfield, Wisc.
Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top interior lineman and a consensus All-American following his senior season at Wisconsin … Selected third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns …Started at left tackle all 16 games for the Browns his rookie season, finishing second in AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting to Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson … Known for his agility, strength and durability, he played an NFL record 10,363 consecutive snaps – a streak that ended Oct. 22, 2017, after suffering a triceps tear against the Tennessee Titans … Allowed only 30 sacks in his remarkable career, despite facing several Hall of Fame sack specialists and many team’s top pass rushers … Was the first offensive lineman in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons …First-team All-Pro honors six seasons (2009-2011, 2013-15) and second-team All-Pro twice (2008, 2012) … Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s … Well-known for his involvement in the community, he was selected as the Cleveland Browns’ Walter Payton Man of the Year three times (2010, 2012, 2016).

HOF Finalist: 4 | Year of Eligibility: 10
Position: Linebacker
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 235
NFL Career: 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys
Seasons: 13, Games: 184
College: Texas Tech
Drafted: 5th Round (154th Overall), 1996
Born: Sept. 1, 1973, in Pampa, Texas
Versatile and instinctive middle linebacker who made immediate impact … Intercepted three passes for 64 yards, one touchdown and 131 tackles, 49 assisted tackles and two sacks to earn team’s MVP honors and named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, 1996 … Led Dolphins in tackles 10 seasons … Racked up 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons … Amassed 22 tackles (14 solo) in 2001 playoff game versus Baltimore Ravens … Set Dolphins’ career record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns … Career statistics include 17 interceptions for 170 yards … Registered 20.5 career sacks … His 168 starts were most by a Dolphins’ defensive player … First player in team history to win Leadership Award (voted by teammates) three times … First-Team All-Pro five times (1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006); Second-Team All-Pro twice (2001, 2005) … Voted to seven Pro Bowls.

HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 2
Position: Linebacker/Defensive End
Ht: 6-4, Wt: 258
NFL Career: 2005-2013 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-16 Denver Broncos
Seasons: 12, Games: 178
College: Troy State
Drafted: 1st Round (11th Overall), 2005
Born: July 31, 1982, in Auburn, Alabama
Entered the League in 2005 as an underdog with something to prove – started all 16 games at right outside linebacker and amassed 58 tackles and a team-best eight sacks … Led the Cowboys in sacks for eight seasons, 2005-2012 … Led the NFL with 20 sacks (2008) and 15.5 sacks (2010) … Played on only one team with a losing record during his career and helped lead his teams to five playoff appearances … Started at weakside linebacker in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers, amassing three solo tackles and two assists, two sacks and four hits on the quarterback … Career stats: 138.5 sacks, intercepted three passes for 44 return yards and one touchdown and also returned two fumbles for touchdowns … Still holds the Cowboys career sacks record with 117 … Voted first-team All-Pro four times (2007-09, 2011); second-team All-Pro three times (2006, 2010, 2012) … Selected to nine Pro Bowls (2007-2013, 2015-16) … Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

HOF Finalist: 4 | Year of Eligibility: 4
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht: 6-0, Wt: 203
NFL Career: 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts
Seasons: 14, Games: 211
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: 1st Round (30th Overall), 2001
Born: Nov. 17, 1978, in New Orleans, Louisiana
Offensive threat who helped Colts reach postseason every year but two during his career … Caught 100 passes in a season four times (104 in 2007, 100 in 2009, 111 in 2010, and 106 in 2012) … Recorded 1,000 receiving yards eight times … Led NFL with career-high 1,510 receiving yards, 2007 …Had 10 or more catches in a game 15 times … Set franchise record with 15 receptions versus Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 3, 2010 … Racked up 100 yards in a game 43 times … Career stats: 1,070 catches for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns … Started three AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls … Had two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI victory … Retired as NFL’s second all-time leading receiver in postseason (93 catches) … First-Team All-Pro, 2010 … Second-Team All-Pro 2007, 2009 … Voted to six Pro Bowls over seven-year span.

HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 4
Position: Linebacker
Ht: 6-1, Wt: 242
NFL Career: 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers
Seasons: 8, Games: 112
College: Mississippi
Drafted: 1st Round (11th Overall), 2007
Born: January 25, 1985, in Bruceton, Tennessee
Immediate starter for 49ers after joining team as 11th overall selection in 2007 NFL Draft … Totaled 174 tackles, four sacks, seven QB hits and eight tackles for loss in earning 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Award … Named first-team All-Pro five times in eight NFL seasons (2007, 2009, 2010-12) … Selected to Pro Bowl following seven consecutive seasons (2007-2013) … Won NFL’s version of the Butkus Award (then in its second year) in 2009, following his best season statistically overall: 152 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, eight pass deflections and career-bests of three interceptions and 13 tackles for loss … Won the Bill Walsh Award in 2009 as the 49ers’ most valuable player …Contributed 10 tackles in Super Bowl XLVII loss to Baltimore Ravens … Career stats include 20.5 sacks, 60 tackles for loss, eight interceptions and 16 forced fumbles. … Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s.

HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 15
Position: Safety
Ht: 6-1, Wt: 219
NFL Career: 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys
Seasons: 12, Games: 178
College: Arizona State
Drafted: 2nd Round (37th Overall), 1992
Born: April 25, 1969, in Phoenix, Ariz.
Selected in the second round, 37th overall, of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys with a pick obtained as part of the Herschel Walker trade … Earned a spot on the 1992 PFWA All-Rookie Team, appearing in all 19 games for the World Champion Cowboys … A member of three Super Bowl championship teams with Dallas (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) … Ended his playing career as the Cowboys’ alltime leader in tackles with 1,350 … First-team All-Pro honors four seasons (1994-96, 1998) … Chosen to participate in five Pro Bowls (1994-98) … Elected to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2015 …Finished his 12-year NFL career with 26 interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns … Winner of the 2002 Bart Starr Award, given annually to the NFL player who serves as a positive role model to his family, teammates and community … Finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2003.

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