With the 2023 Pro Football of Fame induction class set to be announced later today at the NFL Honors ceremony, there’s no better time to look ahead at the players who could eligible for next year’s class. While 2023’s class was filled with tough names, there’s a bit of a drop-off for the class of 2024, which could end up being a benefit for the members of the class of 2023 who don’t make the cut.
Outside of TE Antonio Gates and DE Julius Peppers, there don’t appear to be any players from the class of 2024 who could be first-ballot selections. That’s not to take anything away from the accomplishments of Peppers and Gates, however, as they both put together illustrious careers that earned them sports on the 2010s All-Decade Team.
Peppers (a nine-time Pro Bowler) tallied 159.5 career sacks across his 10-year career. In total, he had 10 seasons with a double-digit sack total, the last of which came in 2017, his penultimate season in the NFL.
Along with recording 116 touchdown receptions (the most among tight ends in NFL history), Gates recorded 11,841 receiving yards across his career. His best season came in 2009 when Gates tallied 1,157 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for the Chargers.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski was initially eligible for the class of 2024 and would have been a likely first ballot choice, but his eligibility was pushed back when he came out of retirement in 2020 to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After Peppers and Gates, the list of first-year eligible players includes S Eric Berry, DT Haloti Ngata, RB Jamaal Charles and WR Brandon Marshall — players who put together, good, solid careers that aren’t necessarily Hall of Fame material. Another interesting name on the list is QB Andrew Luck, who was on a Hall of Fame track before abruptly retiring prior to the 2019 season. While Luck will probably never be inducted into the Hall of Fame (he only played in 86 career games), it’ll be interesting to see if he earns more votes across the years his name is on the ballot.
That weak class could benefit players from the Class of 2023 who aren’t first-ballot inductions like Dwight Freeney, Devin Hester, Patrick Willis, and James Harrison, among others.