The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced its list of 108 modern-day nominees for the class of 2018.
That list of 108 will be cut down to 25 semifinalists in November and then down to 15 finalists in January. On the eve of Super Bowl LII, the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2018 will be announced.
These are the top candidates:
Steve Hutchinson, OG
For a healthy part of Hutchinson's career with the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, he was arguably the game's best guard (though, a strong case could be made for Alan Faneca, too). From 2003-09, Hutchinson went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls and was a first-team all-pro pick five times.
Ray Lewis, LB
Considered one of the greatest to play at his position, Lewis was the emotional centerpiece for the Baltimore Ravens for more than a decade and the frontman for one of the greatest defenses (the 2000 title-winning team) in NFL history. His collection of accolades rivals anybody who's ever played the game: two Super Bowl wins, Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFL defensive Player of the Year, seven first-team all-pro selections, 13 Pro Bowls and member of the NFL's all-decade team for the 2000s. The only question will be how much his off-the-field legal issues will be weighed.
Randy Moss, WR
Moss was almost as dominant on offense as Lewis was on defense. He hit the ground running for the Minnesota Vikings with one of the most impressive rookie seasons in league history, leading the NFL in TD receptions for the first of five times in his career. In 2007, Moss had a record-setting 23 TDs for a New England Patriots team that went unbeaten before falling to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. On the all-time receiving leader lists, Moss ranks second in touchdowns (156) and third in yards (15,292). However, all of that talent and production came at a cost, and detractors will point out that Moss could be a headache at times off the field. That viewpoint worked against Terrell Owens — another uber-talented, yet occasionally disruptive locker-room force — who has been denied entry into Canton twice by the Hall of Fame gatekeepers.
Brian Urlacher, LB
Like a potential wide receiver 2018 class that could include Moss and Owens, the linebacker class could be just as impressive with Lewis and Urlacher as possible enshrinees. Urlacher carried on a proud tradition at the linebacker position for the Chicago Bears, following a long lineage at the position that included Hall of Famers Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Bill George, George Connor, Clyde "Bulldog" Turner and Bronko Nagurski. Urlacher has Hall-worthy credentials: Eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team all-pro, 2000 NFL defensive rookie of the year, 2005 NFL defensive player of the Year and 2000s all-decade team member.
Ronde Barber, CB
Barber played his entire 16-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, collecting five Pro Bowl nods, three first-team all-pro selections and 2000s all-decade team recognition along the way. Barber was also reliable, playing in every game from 2000-12. Two members of that Super Bowl championship Buccaneers defense, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, are already in the Hall of Fame, and safety John Lynch has been a finalist the previous four years.
Top returning contenders
Terrell Owens, WR
With Owens and Moss, two of the best receivers in league history could be in the same Hall of Fame class (get your popcorn ready!). But, if only one gets in, then who? Or, will the two get shut out due to criticisms over being locker-room distractions? It's no doubt Owens has the credentials after a 15-year career. He ranks second all time in receiving yards (15,934) and third in receiving TDs (153). He is fifth in total TDs scored, behind Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Moss. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro. Despite not making the final cut yet, Owens has been a finalist in each of the two years he's been Hall eligible. How long do Hall of Fame voters make him wait for his place in Canton?
Brian Dawkins, DB
Dawkins was already with the Eagles when coach Andy Reid was hired and later quarterback Donovan McNabb was drafted, but he also was vital to the team's rise in the early 2000s as an NFC powerhouse. Dawkins' knack for devastation in the defensive backfield earned him the nickname "Weapon X," and he became a Pro Bowl regular (nine selections) as a stalwart on an Eagles defense that routinely ranked among the league's best.
Alan Faneca, OG/OT
With Faneca and Hutchinson both eligible for enshrinement in 2018, next year's Hall of Fame class could include the premier guards of their era. From 2001-09, Faneca earned nine consecutive Pro Bowl selections and six first-team All-Pro honors while with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets (he retired after spending the following year with the Arizona Cardinals). Faneca has already been a finalist twice, so one is left to wonder how much longer Hall voters will make him wait.
John Lynch, S
Lynch has been a Hall of Fame finalist four times, so it seems like he's due for enshrinement. That being said, was Lynch a better player than some other notable safeties of his era, such as Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler or Darren Woodson? (Atwater and Woodson were 2017 Hall semifinalists.) Lynch's rise to stardom — he didn't become a regular starter until his fourth season when Tony Dungy took over as coach — coincided with the Buccaneers' emergence from league-wide laughingstock to Super Bowl champion. Lynch was also a nine-time Pro Bowler, and he's the only Hall-eligible player with at least nine Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl title who is not already enshrined in Canton.
Joe Jacoby, OT
An anchor on the Washington Redskins' "Hogs" offensive lines of the 1980s, Jacoby was a finalist for induction the previous two years but ultimately was not chosen for enshrinement. Jacoby has the resume: Three Super Bowl rings, four Pro Bowl selections and member of the NFL's all-decade team of the 1980s. If Jacoby were to get in, he'd be the second "Hog" in Canton, joining 2010 inductee Russ Grimm.