The Greatest Queue on Earth

The Greatest Queue on Earth: Hall of fame receivers.

Hall of fame week is here and one thing commentators will refer to ad nauseum is the ever lengthening list of players at the wide receiver position who are either waiting to get into the Hall or will be retiring very soon. Its an ever growing list that, as things stand, is potentially about to become impossible.

To make sense of this queue I have grouped the receivers into distinct groups to make it all a bit easier to follow but be warned, I failed miserably……


Forthcoming First Ballot Hall of famers

Terrell Owens (Eligible 2016)

Rec: 1,078 Yds: 15,934 TD: 153

The only receiver with more career yards than Owens is Jerry Rice. Owens’ stats should have made him a shoe-in this year for his first year of eligibility. However, he was as divisive and controversial a figure as the game has ever seen, and a player who often appeared selfish and destructive which gives an overriding sense that it is this that is prohibiting his entry for now. A sense that Owens, at times, was at odds with everything the Hall of Fame represents. I have a feeling that Owens either goes in next year, or ends up waiting 4 or 5 years at least.

Randy Moss (Eligible 2018)

Rec: 982 Yds: 15,292 TD: 156

Like Owens, Randy Moss was no less of a big personality, but that it was as much about the team as it was his own career. He demanded the ball because he knew he was the most dangerous player on the field and that he could put the offense on his back. His numbers are a testament to his mercurial production over 14 seasons. He still holds the NFL single season record for receiving TD’s for a rookie (17) and for single season receiving TDs (23). Moss is a certain first ballot Hall of Famer in 2018 so it appears that if Terrell Owens is not inducted in 2017 then who knows how long he waits, especially when you consider some of the guys still waiting below. Two in particular create a problem…

Isaac Bruce

Rec: 1,024 Yds: 15,208 TD: 93

Isaac Bruce’s case for induction is a strong one. Ranked 4th All time in Receiving yards, Bruce’s consistent solid production came in spite of inconsistency at the QB position early in his career. Bruce was also a player who became even more dominant with age and is an example of how being a supreme technician can extend the life of your career. Sadly it’s his relatively low TD total that makes him the potential outlier of the 15,000 yard club. Also his achievements were perpetually ignored because of the franchise he played for. Bruce will surely enter the Hall, and his year to do it is potentially 2017. The omission of a receiver with the 4th highest yardage total in NFL history will at some point, become a bit embarrassing.

Torry Holt

Rec: 920 Yds: 13,382 TD: 73

Meanwhile, The case for Torry Holt is very simple, posting those numbers over the course of his 11-year and, upon retirement having the highest yards per game average of any receiver with more than 100 career receptions in NFL. A record that has, only been bested among retired players by Calvin Johnson. Like Bruce, his relatively modest TD total may be a handicap. The other key problem that these two present is that their careers can appear synonymous one another’s. Both were so good, and so comparatively under the radar that in peoples collective consciousness they aren’t seen for the uniquely different receivers they were. Perhaps the panel has an equally difficult time separating their individual greatness in their minds?


Just had their retirement parties

Calvin Johnson (Eligible 2021)

Rec: 732 Yds: 11,632 TD: 83

In all likelihood a first ballot Hall of Fame player, his early retirement only has bearing on his statistical totals. His 9 year career ypg total of 86.1 is almost 9 more than 2nd place (Torry Holt). He also still holds the single season receiving yardage record with 1,946 yards. Numbers that are mind-boggling enough that only a fool would try to argue that he doesn’t get in first time. So essentially 2021 is a no-go for anyone not called Calvin on this list.

Hines Ward (Eligible 2017)

Rec: 1,000 Yds: 12,083 TD: 85

Conversely, Hines Ward is the kind of receiver whose achievements, don’t compare as favorably as many on this list, in fact his 55.4 yards per game is only ranked 97th all time and his numbers, when compared to guys later on in this article, are pretty pedestrian stuff. In fact as recency bias fades and we get more perspective on Ward, maybe his case for inclusion is diluted by the next group of players – the criminally overlooked still queuing.


How much longer will they wait?

Jimmy Smith

Rec: 862 Yds: 12,287 TD: 65

He is the man who caught 15 passes for 294 yards and 3 Touchdowns against the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. He is the man who recorded 9 1000 yard seasons in his 12 seasons in the league and racked up 69.2 yards per game for his career, which is ranked 10th all time among retired players. Like Holt and Bruce, Smith was part of one of the most prolific receiving duos ever accumulating over 14,000 receiving yards and 70+ TDs with Keenan McCardell in just six seasons. Sadly Jimmy Smith has had more than his fair share of problems with the law – the most obvious current obstacle to his inclusion, which is a shame because Jimmy Smith was as good a receiver as this league has ever seen.

Henry Ellard

Rec: 814 Yds: 13,777 TD: 65

Ellard was a legitimate deep threat well into his 30s. In fact in his 17 years in the league he finished a season averaging less than 15.5 yards a catch only once, and his career average is an amazing 16.9 ranking him top all time among receivers with 13,000 yards or more. He is also one of the most prolific receivers in terms of longevity, accumulating over 10,200 yards between the age of 27 and 35, proving that like a fine wine he simply improved with age. For Ellard, induction could be a very long time coming. His relatively low scoring totals are one negative as is his lack of silverware or key signature moments.

So what’s the problem? It’s not that much of a queue…is it?

For now, no, but any of the following could potentially retire at any point, meaning the queue is only getting bigger…

Reggie Wayne

Rec: 1,070 Yds: 14,345 TD: 82

Realistically Wayne is retiring soon. His physical abilities have diminished and the end is near. If Wayne left the game today he would rank 7th all time in receptions, 8th in Receiving Yards and 23rd in TDs. Ordinarily these are totals that make you a first-ballot shoe-in for Canton. However if he retired now, he would be up against Megatron in 2021, as would…

Wes Welker

Rec: 903 Yds: 9,924 TD: 50

Yes Wes Welker! Bear with me here. Welker’s statistical receiving totals are ok, but that’s all they are. Until they are put in context. His numbers were all predominantly from the slot receiver position. His five 100 reception seasons rank him among the very best to ever play and he represents an evolutionary step in the development of modern offense and that’s enough for him to go in someday.

Not right now…but soon.

Anquan Boldin

Rec: 1,009 Yds: 13,195 TD: 74

A model of consistency and reliability Boldin is also one of the very best blocking receivers to have ever played this game, and a throwback to being a tough guy at the position. His career has been a model of elite production and reliability. Sling in his 14 playoff games with 63 catches for 1,038 yards and 8 TDs and you have a postseason performer who in the era of Owens, Moss, Dez and co simply got lost in the shuffle. Such a shame, as his career is currently at least statistically, one of the most consistent of all time.

Larry Fitzgerald

Rec: 1,008 Yds: 13,386 TD: 98

At 32 Larry became the youngest ever player to reach 1,000 career catches. Fitz has reinvented himself as a Swiss army knife at the slot receiver position and is one of only a handful of players to record 100+ catches in a season over the age of 30. He is also on an average per game basis, the most prolific postseason pass catcher in NFL History averaging 6 Catches for 104 yards and 1.1 TD’s per game. Larry is a legitimate first ballot Hall of famer regardless of his ring total or lack thereof. We are blessed that we live in a time where we still get to witness his greatness on the field.

Steve Smith

Rec: 963 Yds: 13,932 TD: 76

Smith refuses to age, let alone slow down. His 30s have seen no recognizable drop off in his ability to remain physical, competitive and downright dangerous in the air. He’s carried a huge chip on his shoulder for the last 14 years, repeatedly being told he was too small to make it and recently told he was too old but he has always been an explosive player who has carried offenses. Since turning 35 in 2014 he has averaged 75 yards receiving per game. Again Smith’s case for being a first ballot entry is compelling to say the least.

Andre Johnson

Rec: 1,053 Yds: 14,100 TD: 68

Johnson is the first of the truly great Houston Texans. He undoubtedly goes into Canton someday and with luck it will be sooner rather than later. His stats and 13 seasons of carrying that Texans offense assure Johnson a place in due course, however it appears that old father time has caught up with him. His place appears assured as the first eligible Houston Texan, but we may have a particularly sticky scenario where he waits so long that JJ Watt beats him to it.

In summary, there is already enough of a queue as it is and with the final six in this piece pretty much certain to retire in the next 2-3 years it is only getting bigger.

Put it this way, they could do a whole years worth of receivers (6 – which would never happen) and there would still be a horrific few years of impossible decisions to come. All we should ask is that they don’t all retire at once, because 2022 could be crazy!.

I have tried doing a list of the order I think they go in, but it was impossible to decide. For anyone who tries and even completes it, I doff my cap you are far more patient than I.