The 2023 NFL Hall of Fame Class welcomed nine individuals into the most exclusive club in the sport’s annals. Offensive tackle Joe Thomas, linebackers Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, and Chuck Howley, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Ronde Barber, and Ken Riley, defensive lineman Joe Klecko, and coach Don Coryell each earned their way into the Hall of Fame. There’s no greater honor for an individual accolade.
With this year’s class determined, were looking ahead to the 2024 NFL Hall of Fame candidates and possible nominees. We’ve broken down the 10 most likely candidates to hear their names to make the cut. Next year’s class of newly eligible stars isn’t the strongest, so it appears to be a good time to clear some of the backlog of great candidates.
Predicting the 2024 Pro Football Hall Of Fame Class
Edge Julius Peppers
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft was a slam-dunk decision for the Carolina Panthers. Julius Peppers spent a decade in Carolina between two stints and another seven years in Chicago and Green Bay.
Peppers totaled 159.5 sacks in that span, good for fifth all-time. He had only two seasons under seven sacks and a whopping 10 years with double-digit totals. Peppers was a nine-time Pro Bowler who also made the 2010s All-Decade Team. He should be a first-ballot lock.
TE Antonio Gates
Another first-ballot lock for 2024 is tight end Antonio Gates. Simply put, the modern tight end position doesn’t exist without Gates’ influence.
Gates famously transitioned from basketball to football, bringing with him an incredible level of athleticism that transformed what offenses wanted from tight ends. The NFL’s all-time leader in touchdowns among tight ends and third-all-time in receptions and receiving yards, Gates had high peaks and longevity.
The three-time first-team All-Pro and All-2000s Team honoree had 955 receptions, 11,841 yards, and 116 touchdowns. He had eight straight seasons with at least 704 yards and seven touchdowns.
LB Patrick Willis
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis had a relatively short career, retiring at 29 years old after his eighth NFL season. But Willis was absolutely brilliant in that time, racking up recognition for being an elite player for seven campaigns. Willis’ incredibly high peak deserves a Hall of Fame spot.
Willis finished with seven Pro Bowl nods, five first-team All-Pro nominations, the 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, and he made the All-2010s Team. He totaled 950 tackles, 20.5 sacks, eight interceptions, and 53 pass breakups in his career. After being a two-time Hall of Fame finalist, 2024 is his time to get in.
Edge Jared Allen
A three-time finalist to enter the Hall of Fame, Jared Allen should make it in 2024 after seeing DeMarcus Ware enter in 2023. Ware had slightly more production than Allen and a higher profile, but Allen — boasting a strong résumé — is the only defender in his production range who hasn’t yet made it in.
Allen is tied for 16th with 136 sacks in his career and led the NFL in two seasons in that category. He made four first-team All-Pro rosters and seven Pro Bowls. Though he didn’t quite have the longevity of his peers, Allen had only one season under nine sacks until his final two years.
OT Willie Anderson
Former Bengals great Willie Anderson fell short of getting into the Hall of Fame for the second year in a row as a finalist, but 2024 looks more promising. Anderson was one of the best right tackles in NFL history after being a top-10 pick by the Bengals in 1996.
In total, 12 of Anderson’s 13 seasons were spent in Cincinnati before retiring after winning the 2008 AP Comeback Player of the Year Award with the Ravens. Anderson earned three first-team All-Pro nominations and four Pro Bowls.
WR Reggie Wayne
We have a stack of all-timers at wide receiver that needs to be fleshed out. Statistically, it’s Reggie Wayne who has the best résumé and argument to make it first of the group of four stars, but it’s close.
Wayne finished 10th in receptions (1,070) and yards (14,345), and tied for 28th in touchdowns (82). He spent his entire career with the Colts, posting seven consecutive seasons with at least 1,055 yards.
Wayne paired with Marvin Harrison to be one of the most dynamic duos in NFL history — catching passes from Peyton Manning. Wayne should get in sooner than later since his résumé is well-rounded and has great peaks.
WR Steve Smith
Former Panthers and Ravens great Steve Smith built a tremendous résumé throughout a 16-year career. He’s 12th all-time in receptions — just behind Andre Johnson and Wayne — but is eighth in yards and leads his peers among eligible receivers. Smith finished just one touchdown behind Wayne and is comfortably ahead of Torry Holt and Johnson.
Smith had two sides of a great career. He had five 1,000-yard seasons and two more years with at least 872 yards by the time he was 30. But adding Cam Newton to the Panthers reinvigorated Smith’s career at 32 years old. Smith added five more years with at least 745 yards, with three going over the 1,000-yard mark.
WR Andre Johnson
Comparing Johnson to Wayne and Smith is difficult. He had more dominant stretches with higher peaks but didn’t have the touchdown totals. Johnson also dealt with the worst quarterback situations, yet still led the NFL twice in receptions and receiving yards.
Johnson played 14 seasons, with 11 being statistically significant in his case. He was a dominant force even when defenses knew where the ball was going. Like Smith, I don’t think stats tell the whole story about how talented Johnson was.
He should also make it into the Hall of Fame after falling short as a two-time finalist.
WR Torry Holt
We’ve seen Torry Holt make the final list four times after becoming eligible in 2015. Holt has a strong résumé after being at least solid in each of his 11 years played. His run from 2000 through 2005 was spectacular, but because he played with fellow Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce, he lost some production to another star.
Holt finished 22nd with 920 receptions, 17th with 13,382 yards, and 40th with 74 touchdowns. His best argument is that he had eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,188 yards and led the NFL twice in receiving yards. Holt was a premier big-play threat and continued to be a solid contributor until he retired at 33 years old.
KR/PR Devin Hester
Getting specialists into the Hall of Fame has proven to be difficult. Devin Hester fell short of being inducted into the Hall of Fame for the second straight year despite earning a finalist status. Nevertheless, Hester changed how special teams were viewed and is undoubtedly the best to ever return punts.
Hester recorded 14 punt returns for touchdowns and another five kick returns for scores. He’s one of two players in NFL history with double-digit punt return touchdowns (Eric Metcalf with 10).
The former Bears great was a three-time first-team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, in addition to earning a spot on the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team and being a member of both the 2000s and 2010s All-Decade Teams.
Edge Dwight Freeney
I think Dwight Freeney is the cut-off for players who will be seriously considered for the Hall of Fame in 2024. Freeney, who finished his career with 125.5 sacks (26th all-time), was a finalist in his first season as an eligible candidate for 2023 but fell short.
Freeney had a dominant stretch from his rookie season in 2002 through 2011 before becoming a journeyman who played for five teams in six seasons. His 11-year run with the Colts was spectacular, totaling 107.5 of his sacks and earning seven Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro nods.
Eligible Players on the 2024 Ballot
- Julius Peppers, EDGE (2002-2018)
- Antonio Gates, Tight End (2003-2018)
- Haloti Ngata, Defensive Tackle (2006-2018)
- Jamaal Charles, Running Back (2008-2018)
- Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver (2006-2018)
- T.J. Lang, Offensive Lineman (2009-2018)
- Jordy Nelson, Wide Receiver (2008-2018)
- Josh Sitton, Offensive Lineman (2008-2018)
- Max Unger, Offensive Lineman (2009-2018)