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Does every NFL draft class have a potential Hall of Famer?

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Let’s see if you can land a Hall of Famer in each NFL draft of the past 20 years.

USA TODAY Sports/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Yesterday during lunch I was watching a YouTube video about the top ten things this YouTuber would like to see in MLB the Show 2019 (because these are the kinds of things I do during lunch). One of the things he wanted to see was at least one player in each draft that is a Hall of Fame type talent; a Mike Trout level player as he described it.

To me, that sounded crazy. “There isn’t a Hall of Fame talent in every draft class, is there?” I asked myself. So, since I’ve got this platform and the requisite time to kill, I’ve decided to answer that question right here, right now.

Here is a deep dive into the past 20 years of NFL drafts (because my MLB knowledge isn’t good enough to claim whether a player is destined for the Hall or not) and my attempt to see if indeed there is a Hall of Famer in every NFL draft, or at least of the drafts in the last 20 years. Is this totally pointless? Yes. Will this be enjoyable and educational? Who knows, but that’s the fun of it.

To the 1998 NFL Draft!

1998 Draft: Randy Moss

Yes Peyton Manning was also in this draft BUT Moss is actually already in the Hall of Fame so he gets his name up here and bold. Maybe you should’ve tried harder during your NFL career Peyton. Bummer. (Jokes, I know Manning isn’t eligible for the Hall until 2021, alongside fellow 1998 draftee Charles Woodson. Good draft for Hall of Famers.)

We’re off to a good start.

1999 Draft: Champ Bailey

There were a couple of names here that I was considering listing as Hall of Fame talents before I realized Champ was a part of this class. I would be shocked if Bailey didn’t make the Hall as a part of the class of 2019.

Side question: Is Donovan McNabb a Hall of Fame quarterback? (The right answer is no.)

2000 Draft: Brian Urlacher

Easy pick since he’s already made it into the Hall. I wonder if the 2000 draft class will have two special teams players head to the Hall from it in Sebastian Janikowski (who was a first round pick never forget) and Shane Lechler. Oh and Tom Brady was the 199th pick in this draft. He’s currently set to play in his ninth Super Bowl. I think he’ll be in the Hall at some point.

2001 Draft: LaDainian Tomlinson

Another guy who’s already in the Hall, making my job a heck of a lot easier. LT will almost certainly be joined by Drew Brees, Reggie Wayne, Steve Hutchinson and maybe even Chad Johnson at some point.

Side question 2.0: Is Michael Vick a Hall of Fame quarterback? (That one’s a bit harder to answer.)

2002 Draft: Julius Peppers

The 2002 Draft had some elite defensive talent: Peppers, Dwight Freeney (also probably headed to the Hall), Albert Haynesworth (Ndamukong Suh before Ndamukong Suh), Ed Reed (basically already in the Hall). Not a bad list at all.

One of the reasons I like doing these kinds of history articles is because you stumble upon names that you’ve totally forgotten but for whatever reason resonate with you. Aaron Kampman was in this draft and the only reason I know Kampman was because he was the perfect level of good in Madden 08 where you could easily sign him/trade for him but he still performed like an elite defensive lineman. Had him in just about every Madden franchise that year.

2003 Draft: Troy Polamalu

Terrell Suggs, Charles Tillman, Andre Johnson, Jason Witten, and Robert Mathis (maybe) are all other guys who have Hall of Fame cases from this draft class. I just put Polamalu at the top of the list because I love him and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

2004 Draft: Larry Fitzgerald

The 2004 Draft was LOADED, holy buckets. Only three players taken in the top 10 never went to the Pro Bowl. The draft had Eli Manning (WHO IS NOT A HALL OF FAME QUARTERBACK PEOPLE), Philip Rivers (I respect him more), Sean Taylor (RIP), Kellen Winslow, Ben Roethlisberger (maybe Hall of Fame?), Will Smith, Vince Wilfork, Bob Sanders, Jared Allen, Jason Peters (undrafted) and Vonta Leach.

Man, seven years into this and it certainly seems you can find Hall of Fame talent every year in the NFL draft...

2005 Draft: DeMarcus Ware

I thought I had stumbled upon a year that was going to challenge me given that the first ten picks of this draft contained good players but no one near the Hall of Fame. But then Ware showed up, and so did Shawne Merriman, and so did Aaron Rodgers so 2005 definitely has at least one Hall of Famer in it.

2006 Draft: Devin Hester

I’m not reaching here. I’m not trying to pick someone to keep this idea that there’s a Hall of Famer in every draft class alive. I truly believe Devin Hester belongs in the Hall and I don’t think this should be at all a hot take. It should be a very lukewarm take. Hester is the greatest kick/punt returner in NFL history and the Hall of Fame is meant to recognize the greatest players at their respective positions. Ergo, Hester is a Hall of Famer.

I also think when all is said and done, Andrew Whitworth will end up in the Hall of Fame.

2007 Draft: Calvin Johnson

Take your pick between Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Patrick Willis (maybe), Greg Olsen (maybe), and Marshal Yanda. There’s a legit chance that all those guys make the Hall which would be pretty incredible but 100% deserving. Particularly the first four guys on the list.

2008 Draft: Matt Forte?

Now we’re getting interesting. There are certainly names of note in the 2008 draft, but are any of them actually Hall of Famers? Matt Ryan maybe headlines the group but I have a hard time bringing myself to say that Matt Ryan is a Hall of Fame quarterback. Same can be said about DeSean Jackson or Jordy Nelson. While they are both great receivers with very impressive careers, I don’t think either have done enough to enter the Hall.

The two names I could maybe, maybe argue are Matt Forte and Calais Campbell. Forte is 29th in career yards from scrimmage and 23 in career touches. Even though he never made an All-Pro team—something that certainly hurts his Hall status—he did help usher in the wave of the receiving/do-it-all back which in terms of NFL history, is a big deal. But I’m not sold either of these guys belong in the Hall. 2008 might have just broken the trend.

But don’t worry, we’ve got another 10 years to go!

2009 Draft: LeSean McCoy

McCoy by far has the best Hall chances of anyone from the 2009 Draft, whether or not you think he deserves to be in. He’s 25th all time in rushing yards which certainly counts for something. Again, though, not a great stretch of years between this and last year.

2010 Draft: Rob Gronkowski

After two tough years, this is an easy choice.

2011 Draft: Von Miller

Now we’re returning to the land of easier picks. Even if you don’t agree with Von Miller as a Hall of Famer, this draft also has Patrick Peterson, Tyron Smith, J.J. Watt, Richard Sherman, and of course Julio Jones (and A.J. Green if you think he’ll have seasons away from Andy Dalton to unlock his true potential).

2012 Draft: Luke Kuechly/Bobby Wagner

I think the Hall of Fame door is still certainly open for Andrew Luck but I wanted to pick the two guys from this draft class who are clear Hall of Famers and will have no problem getting in. Also Russell Wilson was drafted this year. So, there’s another Hall of Famer.

2013 Draft: DeAndre Hopkins

This draft is another one with a lot of good to great players but I don’t know how many will put together Hall of Fame resumes. I think Xavier Rhodes could do it as could Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. Le’Veon Bell could certainly if he returns to his old ways with whatever team he plays with in 2019. Hopkins is the clear headliner though as he’s been a monster since entering the league and is still only 26 years old.

2014 Draft: Aaron Donald

Donald, Khalil Mack, Odell Beckham, take your pick. Those three guys are locks for the Hall in my opinion if all things remain the same. Please though, Giants, let’s get Odell a quarterback who can actually throw the ball down the field this offseason ok? Thanks.

2015 Draft: Todd Gurley

He’s the best the 2015 Draft has to offer and he’s so far already putting together a pretty incredible resume. He’s been in the league four years and already is within the top 100 backs in NFL history in rushing touchdowns.

2016 Draft: Jalen Ramsey

It’s still earlier enough for this class that there are a lot of guys who have shots at the Hall: Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill maybe. All these guys have shots, I just put Ramsey at the top because I love me some Jalen Ramsey.

2017 Draft: Patrick Mahomes

A looooot of projecting here but if Mahomes puts together a career of what we saw this year, he’ll certainly be the most entertaining and maybe even the greatest quarterback of all time. Also Myles Garrett, Alvin Kamara and George Kittle get mentions.

2018 Draft: Quentin Nelson

I will fight anyone who isn’t willing to put Nelson in the Hall of Fame right now.


All in all, I guess there is roughly a Hall of Famer in every draft class. I was surprised to hear it out loud but the data certainly backs it up. Some years obviously have more stretches than others and for the most part I’ll admit I stayed away from offensive linemen because who the eff knows with those guys but it seems there’s often at least one Hall of Famer in each draft class. Who knew.