Cantonmetrics: 2024 Preliminary Nominees

Offseason Snapshot | Senior/Coach/Contributor Semifinalists | All-Snub Team

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. Note that the listed Monitor number will differ from the number published at PFR for players that have reached the semifinalist stage; PFR applies bonuses to the Monitor for reaching the semifinalist and finalist stages, but removes them once a player is actually inducted, and the ordering of the players already reflects the stages each player has reached. 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 and Rickey Jackson standing 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 recently despite being off the list of nominees not long before.

Without further ado, here are the 173 (!) modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024:


So I’d decided that if I was going to provide analysis on the Offseason Snapshot I should provide it on the other posts as well, but I’d been thinking about not providing it on this post because who cares if a player is among the 100+ that gets a nomination, considering how low the bar is for that? Then the Hall went hog-wild adding a bunch of nominees to the field, going from 129 nominees last year to a record 173 this year, most of them players that hadn’t been nominated before, while still leaving out some surprising choices. Drew Bledsoe was on the list of nominees three years ago but doesn’t get that honor even with the explosion in size of the field; instead we get candidates like Marc Bulger and Doug Flutie that don’t seem like they’re deserving of even the level of consideration represented by the nomination stage. The same pattern applies at other positions, but I’ll get into the potential explanations, and the questions raised thereby, when we get to the position with the most glaring omissions. (Oh, and even though Andrew Luck doesn’t meet the standard for listing first-year players as notable omissions laid out above, I included him anyway because I know there’s more interest in quarterbacks.)

Same deal here: lots and lots of running backs get listed that weren’t listed before, including the return of Thomas Jones to the nominees, but no love for Matt Forte or Maurice Jones-Drew, even though the latter was a nominee his first year on the ballot.

Another thing that strikes me is that the boom in newly nominated players seems specific to certain positions. The number of nominated quarterbacks and running backs doubled or nearly so, but only two wide receivers were nominated that were eligible but not nominated last year – and Roddy White dropped from the ranks of the nominated WRs. With the addition of two first-year players the number of nominated receivers still increased by three, but still.

Tight end doesn’t produce a lot of Hall of Famers and tends not to even produce many nominees, but we’ve been dropping a nominated tight end each year for the last few years now and that continues even with the boom in nominations overall, with Antonio Gates saving the position from actually having fewer nominees than last year. If Gates gets inducted, next year we could be down to just Ben Coates, in his last year of eligibility, and Vernon Davis, in his first. Realistically I’m not sure the voters will drop Wesley Walls as he enters his last few years of eligibility himself, but within a couple years we could have more nominees that aren’t yet eligible right now than ones that are.

As with wide receiver, the boom in newly nominated players didn’t help the O-line much: four newly nominated players (plus three first-year players), two players nominated last year that fell off the ballot. At least here, Mark Stepnoski has been a bit of a glaring omission as an All-Decade player with a Monitor over 60, though I wouldn’t cry too much if he never made the semifinalists.

Defense/Special Teams

Defensive tackle seems to be one of the positions that… whoever determines the nominees (more on that later) decided to lather new nominations onto; of the ten nominations at the position, only four return from last year with Haloti Ngata being a first-year player.

On the edge, on the other hand, no players went from being eligible but unnominated last year to nominated this year, and Clyde Simmons fell out of the nominees after one year. As at tight end, Julius Peppers being a first-year player offsets that and means the total number of nominees at that position stays constant, but that might not be the case next year, as Peppers could be inducted first-ballot and Michael Bennett and his sub-35 Monitor number might be the best candidate coming next year.

Linebacker, especially on the outside, is another position where the Hall went hog-wild with new nominees (13 new nominees to just 12 returners and no first-year players), yet Chad Brown, himself an outside linebacker, falls out after one year, and All-Decade player Levon Kirkland remains on the outside looking in. But that’s nothing compared to what we see at the next position…

…and this is where I have to call a timeout. According to the Hall of Fame’s FAQ page, this is how the early stages of the selection process works:

Any fan may nominate any Player, Coach or Contributor who has been connected with pro football simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at 2121 George Halas Drive NW, Canton, OH 44702.  The only restriction is that a player and coach must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered.  There is no mandatory retirement period for a contributor before he may be considered.  Every nomination of an eligible candidate received will be processed and forwarded to the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.

Each year, the Selection Committee will be polled three times before the Final List of Modern-Era Player Nominees is determined. That Initial Preliminary List of nominations is compiled and sent to the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee by March 1. The list is provided so that the Selectors can study the nominees and then request the addition of any other candidates that may have been overlooked. Included on this list are first-time eligible candidates who have strong enough credentials to give them even a remote chance of eventual Hall of Fame election.  Also included are all other eligible candidates nominated by any person.  Additionally, those Modern-Era Player nominees from the previous year’s final preliminary list who received at least four votes in the balloting to determine the Modern-Era Player Finalists automatically are included on this preliminary list.

The Second Preliminary List is sent to the Selectors during the month of July and includes all the nominees named on the initial list plus any additional nominations received from any source since the first list was compiled.

The Third Preliminary List of eligible candidates is sent to the Selection Committee during the month of September for the purpose of the selection of the Modern-Era Player Semifinalists for election.  From the Third Preliminary List, the Selection Committee is asked to vote for 25 Modern-Era Player Nominees who become Semifinalists for election.

So first, the Hall sends to the electors a list of candidates that have been suggested by anyone, including any rando who bothers to write a letter to the Hall of Fame. This list is then added to, both by selection committee members and by more randos, by July. The list of nominees you see here is the “Third Preliminary List”, with the “Final List” being the list of semifinalists, and the FAQ doesn’t specify whether the selection committee is asked to add to or subtract from the “Second Preliminary List”, but since the “Second Preliminary List” doesn’t get publicized, presumably the Hall continues to get more nominations from randos that would need to be accommodated.

If the process of going from the “Second Preliminary List” to the third is more like the move from the first to the second than the cutdown to the list of semifinalists, it would explain some of the idiosyncratic additions to this year’s list of nominees (not to mention the extensive list of special teams players below when only Devin Hester has so much as made the semifinals in recent years), but it would be kind of useless as a milestone to determine how close someone might be to getting inducted, and it wouldn’t explain a lot of the omissions, as pretty much any candidate with any sort of following should remain on the list of nominees year after year. Even Michael Vick, despite having a mediocre-at-best resume on paper, probably should have been nominated the last few years even with a more restrictive “Third Preliminary List”, given how he helped change how the quarterback position is perceived; certainly there shouldn’t be any players selected All-Decade on offense or defense that should ever be omitted from the list of nominees, let alone one with a resume like Darren Sharper’s where there’s a legitimate case for induction, let alone nomination. So in all likelihood the list of nominees reflects, to some degree, the candidates that the selectors want to consider, not just whatever Tom, Dick, and Harry think should be in the Hall.

But even then, how do you get selected for an All-Decade Team – not as a particularly marginal choice, at that – and less than four years later, not even be nominated for induction to the Hall of Fame?

Okay, so Sharper got busted for drugging and raping women not long after his 2010 retirement and is spending time in prison, so it’s understandable that the selectors and the Hall itself would be reticent to nominate him, even if he hasn’t been and can’t be explicitly disqualified. But to my knowledge, Eric Berry hasn’t been subject to anything like that. Berry wouldn’t be the most glaring omission among safeties not in the Hall (and would have the worst Monitor of any safety if he got in), but he was the fifth-highest rated first-year player on the board in the Monitor and his postseason honors would at least be worthy of consideration. I could understand if he never gets in, but it’s unfathomable to me that he wouldn’t at least be nominated in a year with so many more nominees than normal – even when defensive back is a position with only four new nominees and two nominees from last year getting dropped.

Looking at the discussion on Zoneblitz, there seem to be a few different ideas behind what might have ultimately gone into the composition of the nominees, including that the Hall itself can or should enforce some degree of quality control on the list of nominees and dropped the ball here by not doing so. But whether the list was largely determined by fan submissions, the selectors, or the Hall itself, none of them completely explains what happened here; if any random fan suggestion would automatically make it all the way to the list of nominees it seems unfathomable that none of them would have suggested Berry or some of the other questionable omissions, and if the selectors have the final say, and they’re ultimately responsible for a list that piles on the nominees at certain positions (especially nominating more running backs than wide receivers despite a) there typically being more wideouts on a football field and b) the existence of a long-running wide receiver backlog, making it hard to argue that they’re just focusing on underrepresented positions) while ignoring and even leaving out clear candidates at others (and in the case of quarterback, arguably both – Bledsoe and Carson Palmer seem to be the non-Berry omissions that stand out the most to the Zoneblitz commenters), it honestly kind of makes me want to question their qualifications or impartiality. (To be sure, questionable decisions among the nominees don’t necessarily mean anything in terms of who actually gets inducted, but if the wide receiver backlog doesn’t get cleared up this year, it’ll make me wonder if it might have been because of a crop of selectors who don’t study or know as much about wideouts, or worse, have a higher bar for their worthiness for induction compared to other positions.)

Besides the other reasons mentioned, Berry especially stands out amongst the omissions because of the clause that any first-year player with “strong enough credentials to give them even a remote chance of eventual Hall of Fame induction” gets included on the “Initial Preliminary List” automatically, which means either the Hall didn’t think he had that “remote chance”, the selectors had him taken off (which seems cruel given his credentials), or the Hall included him and then later removed him. Yet they saw fit to include T.J. Lang, with his two Pro Bowls, no first-team All-Pros, and a Monitor barely over 35? Some of the newly nominated players definitely did deserve more consideration than they’ve heretofore gotten, but it’s head-scratching to see some of the players that couldn’t even make a list of 173 nominees considering some of the marginal players that did get taken.

Ugh, let’s wash the bad taste of that out of my mouth (I think I’m already regretting providing analysis on this post, in part for exactly the reasons I was considering not providing it). Brad Maynard is an eyebrow-raising selection with a Monitor barely half that of the previous low mark of any player (Pat McAfee, whose nomination last year I suspected might have had something to do with his increased prominence in sports media and other ventures in recent years) and no Pro Bowl selections (the same year another player with no Pro Bowl trips, Ryan Longwell, ended a streak of four straight nominations), but by and large many of these players probably should have been nominated before.

A note on how I define returners, since Pro Football Reference doesn’t have a defined “returner” position, certainly not for purposes of the Monitor. Josh Cribbs and Brian Mitchell are the only players listed in the “special teams” category on the Hall’s list, with other players being listed with whatever position they may have played on offense or defense with their returner roles listed as “also” positions – if they’re listed at all; Dante Hall, who was named All-Decade as both a kick and punt returner (ahead of Devin Hester at both positions!), is listed only as a wide receiver with no “also KR/PR” designation. My general rule is, if a player was named All-Pro as a returner and not at their primary offensive or defensive position, they get moved to this section regardless of whether that’s really why they’re being considered for induction (something that’s impossible for me to determine beyond where their honors come from).

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