Being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the highest honor an NFL player can receive.
Enshrinement ensures a player’s legacy, yet gaining admission is subject to the whims of the voters. For every “sure thing” – Tom Brady, Payton Manning, or Drew Brees will all get in when they’re eligible – there are puzzling snubs that simply don’t make sense. Take the great Tony Boselli. Perhaps the best player on this list, this gifted offensive tackle was dominant. He made five Pro Bowls and was named the best tackle in the NFL three times in his seven-year career. As you will see, there have been many Hall of Fame omissions that are real head-scratchers. Boselli’s omission is the most glaring.
In October 2017, we brought you ten players worthy of having a bust in Canton. We got Jerry Kramer, Johnny Robinson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Brian Urlacher in. But there is more work to do. Here are the best players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, by position.
Quarterback – Ken Anderson. Selected in the third round of the 1971 draft out of tiny Augustana College, Anderson is the best quarterback in Bengals history. Over the course of his 16-season NFL career, Anderson led the league in passer rating four times, completion percentage three times and passing yards twice. Named 1981 NFL MVP after leading Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl appearance, Anderson’s 70.6 completion percentage set in 1982 remained the league record for nearly three decades until it was broken by Brees in 2009.
Fullback – Roger Craig. The only running back elected to the Pro Bowl at both fullback and halfback, Craig appeared in the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons. One of 12 players with at least 8,000 career rushing and 4,000 career receiving yards, Craig won three Super Bowls, was 1988 NFC Player of the Year and is a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
Halfback – Edgerrin James. Named 1999 Offensive Rookie of the Year, James led the NFL in rushing in his first two seasons. He rushed for 12,246 yards while scoring 80 touchdowns and snagged 433 passes for 3,364 yards and 11 more scores. Twice named First Team All-Pro, The Edge made four Pro Bowls and was voted to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
Wide Receiver – Sterling Sharpe. In a close call over Harold Jackson, who is also HOF-worthy, Sharpe was brilliant in his seven NFL seasons. A three-time First Team All-Pro, he led the NFL in receptions three times and in receiving touchdowns twice. Despite a career cut short by injury, Sharpe made 595 grabs for 8,134 yards and 65 touchdowns.
Tight End – Pete Retzlaff. Playing in an era before tight ends were featured in the passing game, Retzlaff led the NFL in receptions in 1958. A five-time Pro Bowler who was twice voted First Team All-Pro as the best tight end in football, the former running back scored 47 touchdowns and average 16.4 yards per reception in his 11 seasons.
Offensive Tackle – Jim Tyrer. Named an All-Star in eight of the AFL’s ten seasons, Tyrer was a beast. Big, strong and quick, he won three AFL championships and a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs. A member of the AFL All-Time Team, Tyrer was named First-Team All-Pro five times in 14 seasons.
Guard – Walt Sweeney. As a rookie, Sweeney helped the San Diego Chargers to the 1963 AFL championship, the only title in franchise history. Named to nine straight Pro Bowls, the talented Syracuse product was twice a First-Team All-Pro. Merlin Olsen once said he’d “rather sell used cars than play against Walt Sweeney each game.”
Center – Olin Kreutz. After being named consensus All-American at Washington in 1997, Kreutz opted to turn pro following his junior year. The Chicago Bears made the talented pivotman the 64thpick of the 1998 draft, and Kreutz played 14 NFL seasons. A six-time All Pro, Olin Kreutz started 182 regular-season games for the Bears, second only to Walter Payton. Kreutz anchored the O-Line of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
Defensive Tackle – Alex Karras. One of the greatest defensive players ever to wear the Honolulu Blue and Silver, Karras was relentless. After winning the Outland Trophy at Iowa, the Lions made him the tenth pick of the 1958 NFL draft. Playing in the era of Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen, Karras was four times First-Team All-Pro and was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team. His reputation may have been tarnished after being suspended for the 1963 season for gambling, but that didn’t prevent Paul Hornung, who was also implicated in the scandal, from being inducted into Canton — and Karras was a better player.
Defensive End – L.C. Greenwood. Part of the Steel Curtain, the best defensive line the NFL has ever seen, Greenwood was a six-time Pro Bowler and four-time Super Bowl champion. Hollywood Bags played before the sack was a stat, but he would have recorded 75 or more in his 13 NFL seasons.
Linebacker – Cornelius Bennett. A defensive cornerstone of five Super Bowl teams [four with Buffalo, one with Atlanta], Bennett started 204 of 206 career games. The second overall pick of the 1987 NFL draft out of Alabama, he was twice named AFC Defensive Player of the Year. Bennett forced 31 fumbles and recovered 27 in his 14 seasons.
Cornerback – Eric Allen. The only NFL player to run back three or more interceptions for scores in two separate seasons, Allen played in six Pro Bowls. In seven seasons in Philly, this ASU product was an integral part of the Gang Green defense that terrorized the league. A member of the Eagles 75th Anniversary Team, Allen recorded 54 interceptions in 14 seasons. His most memorable came in 1993 when he picked off Boomer Esiason and returned it 94 yards for the game-winning score. NFL Films called it the “Greatest Interception Return in NFL History.”
Safety – Dave Grayson. A six-time AFL All-Star and four-time First-Team All-Pro, Grayson is the all-time AFL leader in interceptions with 47. He led the league in kickoff returns in 1961 and finished second in 1962 and ’63. Holder of the AFL record for longest interception return [99 yards] and member of the AFL All-Time Team, Dave Grayson averaged 25.4 yards on 110 career kickoff returns.
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