By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Wednesday afternoon, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released its list of 130 modern-era nominees for the induction class of 2021. The list will later be narrowed down to 25 and then 15 finalists, before the official the Class of 2021 is announced the day before Super Bowl LV.
While this year’s list is highlighted by common Patriots villains such as Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson, 23 of the guys on the list were at one point under contract with New England (17.7 percent), including four first-time nominees. Here’s a rundown of who’s making their debuts on the list…
Welker was with the Patriots from 2007-2012. Despite what may seem like a limited window, he owns most of the franchises season and career receiving records. His 903 total career receptions ranks 22nd all-time, and is the most ever by an undrafted player. He the league in catches in 2007, 2009, and 2011, and was the first wide receiver in NFL history to record five 100-catch seasons.
Welker’s Hall of Fame case has been one of the most anticipated in recent memory. The induction committee has historically ignored players who were used in a unique or niche role, and didn’t fit the standard NFL superstar prototype. With many slot receivers, third-down backs, and special teams aces nearing eligibility, Welker will be a good barometer for how that group will be handled. He certainly left his mark on the league, but will the voters reward it even though he wasn’t a traditional deep-threat wideout?
A first-round pick in 2005, Mankins was the picture of durability. He started 15 or 16 games in nine of his 11 years in the NFL, playing through a torn ACL for the entirety of the 2011 season. A six-time All-Pro, he was included as one of the starting guards on the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.
There’s no reason to think Mankins won’t eventually end up in Canton, but his 11-year career is a bit shorter than average for modern Hall of Fame offensive linemen. It may keep him from getting in on his first ballot, but shouldn’t hold him out forever.
The Patriots current inside linebackers coach, Mayo was the 2008 rookie of the year and a First-Team All-Pro in 2010. Only 10 players recorded more tackles than he did during his time in the league (2008-2015). His 802 career stops are third-most in Patriots history.
Injuries kept him off the field during the second half of his career, but for a stretch he was among the most dominant linebackers in the NFL.
Jackson’s best days came as a member of the then-Saint Louis Rams, where he rushed for over 10,000 yards. He is 18th all-time in career rushing yards with 11,438.
However, he’ll always have an infamous place in Patriots history. Signed by the Patriots late in the 2015 as a way to manage the workload the main backs on their roster, Jackson was the focal-point of an overly conservative game plan for a Week 17 loss in Miami. He managed only 35 yards on 14 carries, and the defeat cost the Patriots home-field advantage in the AFC Championship game, which they ended up losing in Denver.
Other Patriots nominees this year include Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, Tedy Bruschi, Ben Coates, Brian Waters, and Corey Dillon.