There are some out there who might feel Dawkins was a superior player to John Lynch. Still, Lynch will have waited several years by the time Dawkins' name first surfaces. Also, given the difficulty safeties have encountered in finding their way to Canton, even a nine-time Pro Bowler will have to wait a year.
Every season, a team gets to 6-0, 8-0 or maybe even 11-0, rekindling the story of the 1972 Dolphins -- the only perfect team of the modern era. Kuechenberg was a key figure on that Miami club, a group that could run the football right at you without facing much resistance. Those 'Fins ran for 2,960 yards in just 14 games during that perfect campaign, relying on a strong and agile offensive line. That Kuechenberg's O-line cohorts Larry Little and Jim Langer are already in the Hall might have given voters pause in the past. Yet Kuechenberg was a finalist seven times before becoming eligible for senior status, so he should have some support in the room going forward.
Class of 2019
While the Class of 2018 looks fantastic on paper, the group for 2019 is striking in its own right. Gonzalez already said this will be his final season, which would make him eligible for first-ballot status in 2019. The Hall of Fame has been a lock for Gonzalez for quite some time, as he is the all-time leader in every major category at the tight end position.
The thinking here is that Reed plays one more season in the league. He's had his share of injury troubles lately, but with 61 career interceptions, a Defensive Player of the Year award and nine Pro Bowls, he's a lock. Adding a Super Bowl ring last season was merely icing on the cake.
Woodson is six interceptions behind Reed among active leaders, yet those 55 career picks don't tell the complete story. Woodson was the queen on the chessboard of coordinator Dom Capers' defense in Green Bay, playing a huge part in the Packers getting to (and winning) Super Bowl XLV. He went from being an athletic, talented corner in Oakland to being a leader and Defensive Player of the Year in Green Bay. Woodson, who returned to Oakland this offseason, doesn't need to do anything else to receive a bust in Canton.
Taylor was a premier pass rusher in the Y2K era who displayed, time and again, that all-around athletic ability is more important than size -- even along the defensive line. His 139.5 career sacks rank sixth all time. Also, like Reed and Woodson, he's a former Defensive Player of the Year.
Karras' name has been tossed around over the years, but it's never quite come together for the man many children of the '80s remember as the dad on "Webster." Unfortunately, Karras passed away last October, but he remains a prime candidate for the Seniors Committee vote. The big issue for Karras has been a one-year suspension in 1963 for gambling activities. Considering Hall of Famer Paul Hornung was suspended the same year, under similar circumstances, it's time for this three-time first-team All-Pro to get the nod.
Stabler's case is a "when" -- not an "if" -- scenario. Perhaps no Seniors Committee candidate is more of an eventual guarantee. "The Snake" has plenty of support; it's just a matter of when he will get nominated by the committee again. Stabler won a Super Bowl, logged 15 seasons and played at a high enough level to be named league MVP in 1974 -- isn't that enough?
Class of 2020
Manning is probably one of the top 10 or 15 players in NFL history. The fact that he owns a record four MVP trophies only furthers his walking-legend status. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is how well he played in Denver last season at age 36, leading the Broncos to a 13-3 mark -- with 11 straight wins to close out the regular season. (This after he sat out the entire 2011 campaign.) We're guessing Manning suits up for two more years, but whatever happens, he's already a lead-pipe lock.
The crystal ball also sees Wayne playing two more seasons in the NFL, but considering that Andrew Luck is under center in Indianapolis, he could stick around a bit longer. What's cool about Wayne is that, prior to last season, a lot of folks in league circles thought he was done. Then he went out and put together a sick campaign (106 catches for 1,355 yards). He's probably already done enough to be a HOFer. Give him a couple more productive seasons with his current quarterback, though, and he could walk across the stage in Canton with his former QB.