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August 06, 2018

How many future Hall of Famers are on the Eagles' current roster?

With former Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins (and former wide receiver Terrell Owens) now enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame, who will be the next Birds to join him in Canton?

Jason Peters: Lock

As an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas, Peters has played in 176 games, starting 166. He is a nine-time Pro Bowler, a two-time first-team All-Pro, and four-time second-team All-Pro, and is now a Super Bowl champion.

With 4 All-Pro selections and 6 Pro Bowl appearances since 2010, Peters is a shoo-in for the 2010s All-Decade Team. The four offensive tackles that make the 2000s all-decade team – Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Willie Roaf, and Orlando Pace – have all already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's not a matter of if Peters will make it. It's only a matter of how quickly he gets in.

Malcolm Jenkins: Needs a very strong close to his career

Statistically, Jenkins has a better case for the Hall of Fame than you might think. Nine years into his career, he has 685 tackles, 16 INTs (6 of which he has returned for touchdowns), 11 forced fumbles, 9 fumble recoveries, and 6.5 sacks. He has also won two Super Bowls.

Those numbers don't touch Brian Dawkins', but they are every bit as good as John Lynch's. Lynch isn't yet in the Hall of Fame, and personally, I don't think he's a great candidate, but most believe he will eventually make it in. Here's a comparison of Jenkins' stats through nine seasons vs. Lynch's first nine seasons:

 PlayerTackles INT (TD)FF-FR Ringzzz 
 Malcolm Jenkins685 16 (6)11-9 
 John Lynch651 18 (0)7-7 

The close to Lynch's career was fine, but nothing special. In his final 6 years in the leagues, Lynch had 403 tackles, 8 INTs, 9 FF, and 2 FR. Those numbers should be easy for Jenkins to beat over the rest of his career, especially considering he's currently playing the best football of his life.

Of course, Jenkins has a few things working against him. First, he does not get enough credit nationally for how good he is. For example, on the NFL's Top 100 list, Jenkins laughably came in at No. 96. While that list is dumb, it is perhaps a barometer of national perception. Secondly, this era of football is producing more quality safeties than ever before, so Jenkins could be facing better competition than the Lynch example used above. And finally, there are surely going to be idiot voters who hold his protests against him.

Still, it's not out of the question for Jenkins to make a strong close with a good close to his career. He plays for the reigning Super Bowl champs, and will get more spotlight time this season.

Darren Sproles: Difficult case

Sproles would something of an oddball inductee into the Hall of Fame, as he's a running back who never had 100 carries in any one season in his career. Sproles' added value as a football player was as a receiver out of the backfield, and on special teams. 

Sproles has three Pro Bowl appearances, which isn't much, by Hall of Fame standards. He also has three All-Pro selections – two first-team selections, and one second-team – which again, isn’t much by Hall of Fame standards.

Sproles best claim to the Hall of Fame is that he is currently eighth on the NFL's all-time all-purpose yards list. He's 35 yards behind Steve Smith (the good one), 45 yards behind Marshall Faulk, and 527 yards behind Tim Brown. If he stays healthy in 2018, he should be able to move into fifth place. 

Here's the top 10 NFL players, all-time, in all-purpose yards:

 PlayerYards Hall of Fame 
 Jerry Rice23,546 Yes 
 Brian Mitchell 23,330No 
 Walter Payton 21,803Yes 
 Emmitt Smith 21,564Yes 
 Tim Brown 19,682Yes 
 Marshall Faulk19,190 Yes 
 Steve Smith19,180 Not eligible yet 
 Darren Sproles 19,155? 
 LaDainian Tomlinson18,456 Yes 
 Barry Sanders 18,308Yes 

As you can see in the chart above, the only player eligible for the Hall of Fame who is not in is Brian Mitchell, another kick/punt returner, though Sproles did a lot more than Mitchell in the regular offense throughout his career.

Another thing working in Sproles' favor is that you won't find a sportswriter who doesn't like him. He's like the anti-Terrell Owens in that regard.

A good barometer of Sproles' chances will be how quickly Devin Hester get in. Over his 11-year career, Hester had 20 return touchdowns, and is considered by most to be the best returner in NFL history. Sproles won't get in before Hester, but perhaps Hester can help break down the kick/punt returner barrier. After all, the HOF voters seem to be making a point to add more special teamers, as Morten Andersen was laughably inducted over Dawkins last year.

Younger players who have a long way to go, but have elite (or near-elite) talent

Carson Wentz: You all saw how good he was last year before he got hurt. This one should be self-explanatory.

Lane Johnson: He was the best offensive tackle in football last year, though he'll have the idiotic obstacle of being a right tackle to overcome, if he stays there over the rest of his career.

Zach Ertz: There are only eight tight ends in the Hall of Fame, but that will change soon, as tight end has become more of a play-making position in the modern NFL. For example, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, and Rob Gronkowski will all likely get in by the time Ertz is eligible. Ertz is arguably a top three tight end in the NFL right now, but he's going to have to start stringing together some 1000-yards seasons and racking up All-Pro nods before he'll ever have a reasonable chance.

Fletcher Cox: Cox is in danger of falling into the category of "outstanding player who will never get enough votes because his stats aren't eye-popping." Over his first six years in the league, Cox is averaging under six sacks per season. He's going to have to pick that up big-time to impress voters in other cities who don't watch him every week.

Little-to-no chance

Brandon Graham: Great player, but the stats aren't remotely close to other Hall of Famers at his position.

Jason Kelce: I think the Hall of Fame would be afraid of the speech he'd give at his induction.

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