We posed that question to nine NFL.com and NFL Network analysts (including Vic Carucci, who will be among the voters on Saturday debating the merits of the candidates), and here's how the vote broke down:
Possibly good news for Dent and Sharpe. It could also indicate that only the minimum four are elected on Saturday (anyone elected after the four would require at least 80 percent of the vote). We'll soon find out.
Gil Brandt: Roaf and Brown
This is who I think deserve it, not who will. Roaf was a tackle from Arkansas State and came into the league knock-kneed and pigeon-toed. But he became one of the best pass blockers that I can remember seeing. Brown was a sensational athlete, not only for the number of catches he made, but he was really a great kick returner who helped the Raiders win a number of games because of that skill.
Vic Carucci: Reed and Dent
Reed is overdue for selection. He has proven himself to be one of the greatest receivers in the history of the game -- a dynamic playmaker with size, strength and toughness. Look at it this way: Jim Kelly never would have put up the numbers that allowed him to become a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer without Reed, who was the best of all of his targets. Dent is the underappreciated contributor to one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. Hall voters tend to be far too enamored with offensive players, and have a way of overlooking remarkably talented defensive players such as Dent.
Charles Davis: Sharpe and Haley
Sharpe was a dominant player at a position that demanded a hybrid type, someone who could block, catch and run. Haley is the epitome of a winner. He excelled at multiple positions and made every team he played on into champions.
Elliot Harrison: Roaf and Dawson
Roaf comes to mind immediately, although he's not a sexy pick. His career seems to be a little more impressive than Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden because he played on some real bargain-brand teams with quarterbacks who were just good enough to get you beat. The other spot is a toss-up. Cris Carter and Cortez Kennedy are Hall of Famers. Charles Haley has five rings. But Dawson was the best player at his position in the 1990s. How come five-time All-Pro Chuck Howley never gets a sniff? He played big in two Super Bowls.
Pat Kirwan: Sharpe and Dent
To me, Sharpe changed the game. When I was on the Jets' defensive staff, we had to devise schemes against him. He was one of the biggest problems we ever faced. We could never be right in how we lined up against him. Dent should have gotten in last year. He's one of the rare pass rushers in the history of the game. In the era we're in today, with passing offenses, he could have gotten 30 sacks a season.
Jason La Canfora: Dawson and Sharpe
Dawson's peers would say he was the greatest player at his position for the majority of the length and breadth of his career. That defines what a Hall of Famer is. Centers are vastly important to any offense, and the position has been far too overlooked. Sharpe is a big-game player whose presence helped put clubs over the top. Incredibly productive deep into his career. A matchup nightmare. A Hall of Famer.
Michael Lombardi: Dent and Haley
When a player affects the game before the game starts -- in terms of the coaches having to game plan around his talent, or else he will destroy the game -- then that player is Hall of Fame worthy. And to me, Haley and Dent were those types of players. They were game-plan players who could alter the outcome of the game with their uncanny ability to sack the quarterback. They combined talent with passion at one of the most critical positions in the game. Defense is about impact, and those players were impactful.
Solomon Wilcots: Sharpe and Bettis
First on my list is Sharpe. When he retired, he held each of the major records for tight ends and won championships with two different teams. He has to be a common denominator. I'll also take Bettis. His career was not only stellar, but he provided an identity for those Steelers teams. His career culminated with him carrying the Steelers to a championship. I think he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer after transitioning from fullback to running back during his career. Simply phenomenal.
Steve Wyche: Carter and Dent
Carter has been denied because of the number of wide receivers, like Jerry Rice, who've gone in since he's been eligible. This time, it's his turn to keep someone like Tim Brown on hold. Dent's credentials speak for themselves, but he's often overlooked because of the great defenses he played with in Chicago. But he helped make them great, and he's deserving to be in Canton. Charles Haley was a great player with five Super Bowl rings, but Haley and Dent won't go in together because two players at similar positions rarely are enshrined simultaneously.