These 5 players are locks for the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

December 4th, 2020

Last week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2021, including one legendary quarterback who just became eligible for induction.

In January, a 48-person selection committee will whittle down the group to 15 finalists, then vote on a select few to become immortalized in Canton, Ohio.

The 2021 class will be announced Feb. 6, one day before Super Bowl LV. The enshrinement ceremony will be held Aug. 8, one day after the 2020 Hall of Fame class celebrates their induction, since their ceremony was postponed during the pandemic.  

Since 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has enshrined 346 players, coaches, and front office personnel considered exceptional figures in the sport. Four to eight new members are inducted each year.

Now that we know the names of the semifinalists, let’s look at five players who deserve to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021.

5. Alan Faneca, G

NFL teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2007; New York Jets, 2008-09; Arizona Cardinals, 2010

The longtime Steelers guard is a six-time semifinalist and has been a finalist each year since he became eligible in 2015.

A nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro, Faneca was a key member of the Steelers’ Super Bowl-winning team in 2006 that featured Ben Roethlisberger, Jerome Bettis, and fellow 2021 semifinalist Hines Ward.

In 2000, Faneca helped the Steelers rank fourth in rushing and opened up lanes for running backs Bettis, Duce Staley, and Willie Parker to set individual and team records while playing with Faneca.

Offensive guard Steve Hutchinson got into the Hall of Fame last year as a seven-time Pro Bowler in his third year of eligibility. Faneca should be the next offensive lineman to see his work commemorated in Canton. 

4. Calvin Johnson, WR

NFL team: Detroit Lions, 2007-15

Based on Calvin Johnson’s individual résumé, the former Detroit wideout is arguably worthy of first-ballot Hall of Fame consideration.

While he should be a lock for the class of 2021, his brief, eight-year career on a subpar Lions team might turn away a few voters in Johnson’s first year of eligibility.

For those unsure of the impact he left on the NFL, let’s reflect on his short, but stellar, career. A three-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler, Johnson possessed a rare mix of size and speed, strength, and pass-catching ability.  

His physical gifts made him nearly unguardable, and helped him break Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards in 2012.

That year, Johnson was just 36 yards short of becoming the only 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history, a feat that no player will likely come close to in today’s NFL. He also became the only player in the Super Bowl era to average more than 120 yards per game and recorded eight consecutive games with at least 100 yards (tied with Adam Thielen for the most).

The next season, in a game against Dallas, Johnson hauled in 329 receiving yards, the second-most yards in a single game by a receiver.

Johnson also has the most games (5) with at least 200 receiving yards, and he’s one of five players with two seasons with 1,600 receiving yards.

Johnson retired at the age of 30 in 2016, after he put up 1,214 yards, the most receiving yards in a player’s final NFL season. In all, he tallied 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns on 731 receptions.

3. Torry Holt, WR

NFL teams: St. Louis Rams, 1999-2008; Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009

One reason Johnson might be snubbed is to make room for receiver Torry Holt, a seven-time semifinalist.

Holt made the list of 15 modern-era finalists in 2020 but still didn’t make the cut in Canton. Instead, his teammate Isaac Bruce did.

Compared to Bruce, Holt is arguably the more impressive receiver. He earned seven Pro Bowls, to Bruce’s four, and led the NFL in receptions in 2003 and receiving yards in 2000 and 2003. Bruce topped the NFL in receiving yards once (1996).  

A member of the "Greatest Show on Turf," Holt recorded 109 yards and one touchdown on seven receptions in the Rams’ Super Bowl win in 2000.

He retired in 2010 with 13,382 receiving yards, the 16th most all-time, and the record for most consecutive seasons (6) with 1,300 yards receiving.

Holt is also tied with Johnson, as well as Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Marvin Harrison, for most seasons with 1,600 receiving yards.

2. Charles Woodson, CB

NFL teams: Oakland Raiders, 1998-2005 and 2013-15; Green Bay Packers, 2006-12

One of the greatest defensive players in NFL history will get his first crack at Canton in 2021.

From the time Charles Woodson entered the NFL, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Michigan turned opposing offenses upside down. Woodson intercepted five passes for 118 yards in his first season, on the way to NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

He won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, the same season he topped the league in interceptions, with nine. Woodson also led the league in picks in 2011 and finished his career with 65, the fifth-most in NFL history.

His 966 interception return yards rank 12th all-time, and his 13 defensive touchdowns are tied for the most, with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper.

Woodson reached the Super Bowl twice and won one with Green Bay in 2011. The four-time first-team All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler is one of just a few players to play in the Pro Bowl in three different decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s).

1. Peyton Manning, QB

NFL teams: Indianapolis Colts 1998-2011; Denver Broncos 2012-15

The one player guaranteed to get into Canton next year on his first year of eligibility is Peyton Manning.

The former Colts and Broncos quarterback, who won Super Bowls with both franchises, retired with a number of NFL records and a slew of accolades.

No player has won more MVP awards than Manning, who claimed five between 2003 and 2013. The iconic signal-caller also collected NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice (2004, 2013), is tied for the most Pro Bowl selections (14), was named first-team All-Pro seven times, and claimed Super Bowl MVP in 2007.

In 2013, at age 37, Manning set the record for most touchdown passes in a season, with 55, and most passing yards in a season (5,477). He is one of eight quarterbacks with at least seven touchdown passes in a game, and has pulled off more fourth-quarter comebacks (43) than any other quarterback.

Manning is third all-time in career passing yards (71,940) and career passing touchdowns (539), behind Drew Brees and Tom Brady in both categories.

He is the closest thing to a shoo-in for the Class of 2021.