Cantonmetrics: 2023 Preliminary Nominees

Each September, the Pro Football Hall of Fame typically names around 95-125 modern-era players, who played at least part of their careers in the past 25 years and have been retired at least 5, as nominees for induction to the Hall of Fame. No more than five modern-era players are inducted each year, so the vast majority of players listed below won’t be inducted this year and most probably won’t be inducted at all. Still, it’s useful to have a baseline to look at them, show their relevant stats and honors, and argue over which players are worthy of induction.

Players are generally sorted according to their performance on past ballots, with those players that have advanced the furthest listed above those that haven’t advanced as far, and those that have advanced more recently listed above those that haven’t advanced as far as recently. Generally, the order in which players are listed only changes to arrange players based on the stage reached in the most recent year, and each new player to become eligible is listed at the top of their applicable category; during the selection process first-year eligible players are listed at the top of whatever category seems appropriate based on their Hall of Fame Monitor number from Pro Football Reference (not the stage I necessarily think they’ll reach). The stages are abbreviated and color-coded in the “Last 5 Years” columns based on a system I shamelessly stole from another blog post a decade or so ago I probably couldn’t find if I looked for it today: “UNL” if a candidate wasn’t even among the nominees that year, “PRE” if they only reached the nominees stage (this one), “Semi” if they were among the 25 semifinalists (announced in November), and “T15” or “T10” if they were among the finalists announced in January and were eliminated at the first or second stage, respectively, of deliberation (historically held during Super Bowl weekend and still announced then, but deliberations seem to have been held earlier, in mid-to-late January, each of the past two years).

To the right of the “Last 5 Years” columns are the various stats and honors that go into the Hall of Fame Monitor, along with the Monitor itself, which is color-coded with the background moving from red to green as the number climbs from 40 to 80. To the left of the Monitor are those awards that apply regardless of position: All-Decade team membership, MVPs (but not Defensive Player of the Year awards even though PFR treats them as equivalent to MVPs), first-team All-Pro selections, and Pro Bowl selections. There are two different columns for All-Pro team selections, with the one on the right counting only the most commonly cited selections by the Associated Press, while the one on the left counts each year a player was selected All-Pro by any of the three organizations recognized by the NFL’s official record books, generally the AP, Pro Football Writers Association, and Sporting News. Even though PFR’s own Approximate Value calculation can make up close to half of each player’s Monitor number, I haven’t listed it here. To the right of the Monitor are those statistical categories that feed into the Monitor at each position: yards and touchdowns for offensive skill positions (and kick returners in the latter case), sacks and interceptions for various defensive positions, field goals for kickers, plus specific positions if multiple positions have been merged into a single table. These right-side columns will be removed in latter stages of deliberation when all players are listed on a single table.

Finally, the “Notables Not Listed” section displays selected non-nominees, including any player that was on the nominees list the previous year (and most other players recently nominated), any first-year eligible player with a Monitor score over 40 (as well as any over 35 that are the highest-rated non-selected players at their position), any player I deem noteworthy (generally those previously nominated or that have particularly high Monitor scores) that just lost their last chance not to fall into the senior pool, and the non-selected player still on the ballot with the highest Monitor score if they don’t fit either of the first two categories (as well as any other high scores I deem worth including). These players are included purely for reference and interest and shouldn’t imply anything about how “deserving” they are of being nominated (much less inducted). It’s worth noting, though, that players can be and have jumped from not being nominated at all to eventually making the Hall of Fame, with Sam Mills last year joining Rickey Jackson as players that made the Hall of Fame in the last 15 years as modern-era players despite not necessarily being on the list of nominees every year of their eligibility, while Everson Walls and Willie Anderson have made the finals within the last five years despite being off the list of nominees not long before.

Without further ado, here are the 129 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023: 


Defense/Special Teams

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