Draft Status of 2021 Hall of Fame Nominees

By Chris Malumphy

The 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame Semifinalists have been announced and include 25 stars who were among the best at their positions. A few seem like clear cut Hall of Fame selections while each of the others is worthy of considerable consideration. There are 15 defensive players among the semifinalists and 10 offensive players, although one was nominated overwhelmingly for his special teams play.

Of the nine true offensive players, only one was drafted after the first round: wide receiver Hines Ward who was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 1998 draft. The first round picks selected as offensive semifinalists are: quarterback Peyton Manning (1st pick,1998, Colts); running back Fred Taylor (9th pick, 1998, Jaguars); wide receivers Calvin Johnson (2nd pick, 2007, Lions), Torry Holt (6th pick, 1999, Rams) and Reggie Wayne (30th pick, 2001, Colts); tackles Tony Boselli (2nd pick, 1995, Jaguars) and Willie Anderson (10th pick, 1996, Bengals); and guard Alan Faneca (26th pick, 1998, Steelers). Steve Tasker (9th round, 1985, Oilers) was drafted as a wide receiver, but excelled on special teams.

The fifteen defensive players included: six first rounders, two second rounders, three third rounders, a fourth round pick, two players from round five and an undrafted player.

The defensive semifinalists drafted in the first round are: defensive tackles Richard Seymour (6th pick, 2001, Patriots) and Bryant Young (7th pick, 1994, 49ers); linebackers Cornelius Bennett (2nd pick, 1987, Colts), Patrick Willis (11th pick, 2007, 49ers) and Clay Matthews (13th pick, 1978, Browns); and defensive back Charles Woodson (4th pick, 1998, Raiders). Three defensive backs selected in the second round are semifinalists: Eric Allen (1988, Eagles), Darren Woodson (1992, Cowboys) and LeRoy Butler (1990, Packers). The third round picks are fellow Buccaneers defensive backs Ronde Barber (1997) and John Lynch (1993). Pass rush phenom Jared Allen was drafted in the fourth round by the Chiefs in 2004. Fifth rounders include linebacker Zach Thomas (1996, Dolphins) and defensive back Rodney Harrison (1994, Chargers).

Linebacker Sam Mills went undrafted in 1981. He was signed and cut by the Cleveland Browns and then the Toronto Argonauts without playing a regular season game for either team. At 5'9", Mills was often considered too small. Mills then played for the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars for three seasons in the USFL where his team won two championships. Mills finally made the NFL in 1986 with the New Orleans Saints. He was 27 during his first NFL season, yet started in the league for 12 years, nine with the Saints and three with the Carolina Panthers for whom he has been inducted into the team's Hall of Honor.

It is inconceivable that two-time Super Bowl winner Peyton Manning would be denied entry to the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility. Calvin Johnson also has a reputation that virtually secures Megatron's selection even though his team always fell way short. On defense, Zach Thomas, Charles Woodson and Ronde Barber should be locks. Alan Faneca will most likely be recognized too. While each of the others are eminently worthy of selection, it will be a numbers game where some may make it while others of perhaps equal merit will not. But no matter, each of the players listed here will be remembered very favorably by fans, teammates and rivals for years to come.

2021 Hall of Fame Nominees
Peyton ManningColts1998111Tennessee
Running Backs
Fred TaylorJaguars1998199Florida
Wide Receivers
Calvin JohnsonLions2007122Georgia Tech
Torry HoltRams1999166North Carolina State
Reggie WayneColts200113030Miami (FL)
Hines WardSteelers199833192Georgia
Steve TaskerOilers198592226Northwestern
Tony BoselliJaguars1995122USC
Willie AndersonBengals199611010Auburn
Alan FanecaSteelers199812626Louisiana State
Defensive Ends
Jared AllenChiefs2004430126Idaho State
Defensive Tackles
Richard SeymourPatriots2001166Georgia
Bryant Young49ers1994177Notre Dame
Cornelius BennettColts1987122Alabama
Patrick Willis49ers200711111Mississippi
Clay MatthewsBrowns197811212USC
Zach ThomasDolphins1996522154Texas Tech
Sam Mills   1981   Montclair State
Defensive Backs
Charles WoodsonRaiders1998144Michigan
Eric AllenEagles19882330Arizona State
Darren WoodsonCowboys19922937Arizona State
LeRoy ButlerPackers199022348Florida State
Ronde BarberBuccaneers19973666Virginia
John LynchBuccaneers199332682Stanford
Rodney HarrisonChargers1994514145Western Illinois