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Hall of Fame semifinalist predictions: Who will make 25-man list?

After revealing 126 modern-era nominees for the Class of 2014 in September, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is whittling that list to 25 semifinalists. The results will be revealed Wednesday on NFL Network during a live special, "Pro Football Hall of Fame: The First Cut," which will air at 10 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, we asked NFL Media historian Elliot Harrison to predict the 25 players who will make the first cut. Hit up Elliot on Twitter _@HarrisonNFL_ to share your opinion.


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Predicted semifinalists: None

I don't see any of the nominees (Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Trent Green, Steve McNair and Phil Simms) making the semifinalist list. Simms has the best shot at the Hall of Fame, but he'll probably end up being a seniors candidate (eligible 25 years after retiring -- Simms last played in 1993).

Running back

Predicted semifinalists: Jerome Bettis, Terrell Davis

The list of eligible running backs is not much stronger than that of quarterbacks. That said, Bettis is a lock to make the first cut. As the NFL's sixth all-time leading rusher, "The Bus" collected a Super Bowl ring and a Rookie of the Year award.

While I don't believe Davis will be inducted this time -- although he deserves it -- he should make the semifinalist list. Some voters can't get past the abbreviated length of his career, but Davis was the best running back in the NFL for a time ... a time when Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders were in the league, too.

Wide receiver

Predicted semifinalists: Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Andre Reed

The morass of wide receivers continues ... Brown, Harrison and Reed will make the first cut.

This is the first year of eligibility for Harrison, who has the third-most catches in league history with 1,102. His 14,580 yards rank seventh all time. And he has a Super Bowl ring. He's probably going all the way to Canton.

Brown already is a four-time finalist, and he ranks fifth all time in catches (1,094) and receiving yards (14,934). Reed? Semifinalist. Some say the ninth time is the charm for him, but the fact he never posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons hurts his candidacy.

Offensive line

Predicted semifinalists: Tony Boselli, Joe Jacoby, Walter Jones, Will Shields

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After hearing much chatter about Boselli being one of the greatest offensive linemen ever, it's surprising he's never been a finalist. Problem is, his career was just as short as Terrell Davis'. I'm going out on a limb and saying he'll be a semifinalist.

Jones should be a first-ballot inductee. Jacoby, a former "Hog," and Shields, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, were semifinalists last time -- and should be again.

Defensive line

Predicted semifinalists: Charles Haley, Michael Strahan

My gut feeling says Haley finally will get a much-deserved Hall nod in February, when the 2014 inductees are officially announced. His 100.5 sacks and record five Super Bowl rings should be enough (one would think).

As for Strahan, people I've spoken with, including some voters, were shocked he didn't make it to Canton last time around. His 22.5 sacks in 2001 remain the high-water mark for all pass rushers. Good luck catching that.


Predicted semifinalists: Derrick Brooks, Kevin Greene, Sam Mills

Brooks will make the semifinalist list and the finalist list, and then receive his gold jacket in August. He boasts 11 Pro Bowls, one Super Bowl ring and six pick-sixes. Greene has been a finalist in each of the past two go-arounds. The guy logged 160 sacks, including 97.5 in his thirties. Mills could go either way.

Former do-everything linebacker Karl Mecklenburg was a semifinalist last time, but we haven't seen much momentum for his induction. Ditto Clay Matthews. Zach Thomas is eligible for the first time, but I doubt his candidacy will get much movement, despite a brilliant career that included 10 seasons of 100-plus tackles.

Defensive back

All of these fellas made the semifinalist list last time, save Harrison, who is in his first year of eligibility. Harrison's 30.5 sacks are the most by a defensive back, yet despite his presence in the public eye on Sunday nights, I believe this is as far as he'll get. He only made the Pro Bowl twice.

As for Atwater, Lewis, Lynch and Williams: The latter two have the best shot at the Hall, yet I don't believe either will make it this time. I did hear some rumblings at last year's Hall of Fame Game that Lynch could be close. Still, this is just too strong a class for him to get the call in February.

Special teams

Predicted semifinalist: Steve Tasker

Morten Andersen made the semifinalist list last time and once again is a nominee. But a three-way tie expanded the 2013 semifinalist list to 27. Because Andersen is a kicker, the thought here is that he's an odd man out. Tasker has been a semifinalist six times, including the last two years in a row.


Predicted semifinalists: Tony Dungy, Don Coryell

Many league observers consider Dungy to be a Hall of Fame lock. Not so fast. While he was the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl, was he elite? Tough call there, but Dungy is a shoo-in to be a semifinalist. Coryell made the semifinals last time, and slowly but surely, his reputation as a father of the modern passing game will sway voters. It's just a matter of time.


Predicted semifinalists: Bud Adams,
Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Steve Sabol

Adams' recent passing might be enough to push the selection committee to make him a semifinalist. Often misunderstood, Adams was a huge figure in the progression of pro football. DeBartolo carries much weight in the room -- the San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls during his stewardship from 1977 to 2000 -- and he was a semifinalist last time. Sabol, the NFL Films icon, wasn't on the 2013 list, but the October episode of "A Football Life" in his honor might help move things along.

And, lastly, if there is another tie for the 25th finalist, my 26th vote goes to former New York Giants general manager George Young, whose name has been thrown around enough to make him a semifinalist before. He helped build two Super Bowl champions in New York, despite the fact that Bill Parcells gets the lion's share of credit.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter _@HarrisonNFL_.

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