Will There Be Any First-Ballot Pro Football Hall of Famers in 2017?

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre looks for a target.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was easily inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One of the greatest honors a professional football player can receive is being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is an even bigger honor for a player to be elected in his first year of eligibility.

In 2016, the only player we saw earn first-ballot Hall of Fame induction status was longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who held nearly every major NFL passing record at the time of his retirement. Favre’s election ensured that we will see a player inducted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility for the fourth consecutive year. Warren Sapp, Larry Allen, and Jonathan Ogden accomplished the feat in 2013; Walter Jones and Derrick Brooks pulled it off in 2014; and the late Junior Seau was bestowed with the honor in 2015.

Now that the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016 is in the books, we look at next year’s class, more specifically, the players who have a chance of being elected in their first year of eligibility. Here are the six most notable players who will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time this year, and our take on their chances of earning induction in the Class of 2017.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, running back

LaDainian Tomlinson tucks in the ball and makes a run for it.

LaDainian Tomlinson tucks in the ball and makes a run for it |Robert B. Stanton/Getty Images

Career stats:

  • 13,684 rushing yards
  • 4.3 yards per carry
  • 145 rushing touchdowns
  • 624 receptions
  • 4,772 receiving yards
  • 17 touchdown receptions

Career honors:

  • 2006 NFL MVP
  • 5-time Pro Bowler
  • 6-time All-Pro
  • 2 NFL rushing titles
  • Walter Payton Man of the Year (2006)
  • 5th-most rushing yards in NFL history


Simply put, we would be shocked if LaDainian Tomlinson is not a first-ballot choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of the most dynamic running backs the league has ever seen, playing at an extremely high level for almost a decade. In 2006, the former TCU Horned Frog turned in one of the greatest single seasons by a running back in NFL history, rushing for 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns while also catching 56 passes for 508 yards and three receiving touchdowns. All said, it would be a crime if Tomlinson is not part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

2. Donovan McNabb, quarterback

Donovan McNabb smiles as he runs off the field.

Donovan McNabb is a long shot to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017 | Nick Laham/Getty Images

Career stats:

  • 37,276 passing yards
  • 234 touchdown passes
  • 117 interceptions
  • 85.6 quarterback rating
  • 3,459 rushing yards
  • 29 rushing touchdowns
  • 98-62-1 regular season record
  • 5 NFC Championship Game appearances
  • 1 Super Bowl appearance

Career honors:

  • 6-time Pro Bowler
  • NFC Player of the Year (2004)



While he had an excellent career, we highly doubt that Donovan McNabb will be a first-ballot entrant into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When it comes down to it, his resume is missing the ever-important Super Bowl title, and his career statistics do little to strengthen his case. On top of that, we firmly believe that Kurt Warner is worthy of induction before McNabb. That said, we are confident that McNabb will eventually have a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio several years down the road.

3. Chad Johnson, wide receiver

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Chad Johnson will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Career stats:

  • 766 receptions
  • 11,059 receiving yards
  • 67 touchdown receptions
  • 14.4 yards per reception

Career honors:

  • 6-time Pro Bowler
  • 4-time All-Pro
  • NFL receiving yards leader (2006)


There is no arguing that Chad Johnson has a Hall of Fame-caliber career resume. We are confident that he will wear a gold jacket sometime in the near future. However, we just don’t believe that his resume is strong enough for him to be elected in his first year of eligibility. On that note, there may not be a Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance speech we look forward to more than Johnson’s whenever that day comes.

4. Brian Dawkins, safety

Brian Dawkins waves his arms at his teammate during warmups.

Brian Dawkins was one of the best safeties of his era | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Career stats:

  • 895 solo tackles
  • 236 assists on tackles
  • 36 forced fumbles
  • 19 fumble recoveries
  • 37 interceptions
  • 26 sacks
  • 3 defensive touchdowns

Career honors:

  • 9-time Pro Bowler
  • 6-time All-Pro



Brian Dawkins was one of the best safeties in the game for the vast majority of his 16 NFL seasons. On top of being a dominant player, Dawkins was also one of the most emotional, fiery leaders the league has ever seen. Like Johnson, we believe that Dawkins is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he will not be elected in his first year of eligibility. Look for the longtime Philadelphia Eagle to be enshrined in Canton sometime within the next five years.

5. Jason Taylor, defensive end

Jason Taylor smiles as he adjusts his gloves.

Jason Taylor has a legitimate chance at being a first-ballot Hall of Famer | Al Bello/Getty Images

Career stats:

  • 139.5 sacks
  • 525 solo tackles
  • 250 assists on tackles
  • 46 forced fumbles
  • 29 fumble recoveries
  • 8 interceptions
  • 9 defensive touchdowns

Career honors:

  • 6-time Pro Bowler
  • 4-time All-Pro
  • 2-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year
  • NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2006)
  • Walter Payton Man of the Year (2007)


Jason Taylor will likely join the prestigious list of first-ballot Hall of Famers. The longtime Miami Dolphins defensive end finished his career with the sixth-most sacks in NFL history (Julius Peppers has since knocked him down to seventh place on the all-time list). Taylor was one of the most dominating defensive players in the league for close to a decade. When it comes down to it, he should be a no-brainer pick for the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

6. Hines Ward

Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a play in Super Bowl XLV.

Hines Ward has a legitimate chance at being named a first-ballot Hall of Famer | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Career stats:

  • 1,000 receptions
  • 12,083 receiving yards
  • 85 touchdown receptions
  • 12.1 yards per reception

Career honors:

  • 4-time Pro Bowler
  • 3-time All-Pro
  • 2-time Super Bowl champion



Hines Ward joins Tomlinson and Taylor as players we believe have a strong case to become first-ballot Hall of Famers in 2017. The longtime Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver embodies everything you could ask of a professional football player. Before emerging as an elite receiver, Ward made a name for himself as a standout on special teams and was also one of the rare wideouts who took pride in his blocking.

When he retired, Ward held nearly every receiving record in Steelers history. He was one of only 12 wide receivers in NFL history to record 1,000 or more career receptions. In summation, the selection committee will have a hard time explaining themselves if they leave Ward out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.