New England Patriots

Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots reacts after he sacked Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos in the second half during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the initial ballot for the Class of 2022. Among the 122 players included, 21 spent at least some time with the Patriots during their careers.

From franchise staples to training camp rejects, who has the best chance to be New England’s ninth representative in Canton? Here’s all the former Patriots whose names could be call upon this year.

  • RB Corey Dillon

    Dillon ranks 20th all-time in rushing yards with 11,241. That’s almost 4,000 more than Terrell Davis, who played during a similar time period and is enshrined in Canton. He’s also 17th all-time in touchdowns, with his 82 a sizable advantage to Davis’ 60. Yet despite those accomplishments, Dillon hasn’t even gotten to the doorstep, failing to even reach the finalist stage despite being eligible since 2011.

  • RB Steven Jackson

    Jackson didn’t reach Canton last year – his first year on the ballot – but he should get there soon. He managed to follow up the electric Marshall Faulk in St. Louis, rushing for 11,438 yards in his career. That’s the 18th most in NFL history.

    Of course, his legacy in New England isn’t as positive, after being signed late in 2015 and struggling in key regular season and playoff games.

    DENVER, CO – JANUARY 24: Steven Jackson #39 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball in the first half against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

  • RB Fred Taylor

    Just ahead of Jackson and Dillon on the NFL’s all-time rushing yards list is Taylor, with 11,695. He was one of the first stars of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, where he ran for over 100 yards a game in 2000. Yet he’s never been a finalist in his six previous years on the ballot.

  • FB Larry Centers

    Larry Centers had one of the most unique careers in NFL history, and helped change the way backs are used in the passing game. He still holds the NFL record for most career catches by a back (827) and is third all-time among non-receivers, behind only Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. You can read more about his fascinating case for the hall here.

  • WR, KR/PR Troy Brown

    Brown returns after being left off the initial ballot last season. He is listed as a returner as well as a wide receiver, which should help his case. Brown’s 10.42 yards per punt return rank fourth among all players during his time in the league (min. 250 returns).

    Beyond Brown’s statistical accomplishments is his knack for making big plays in big games. From the punt return touchdown against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game in 2001, to the strip against the Chargers in 2006, he had a knack for being able to turn momentum at a moment’s notice.

  • WR, PR Henry Ellard

    During the 1980’s Ellard was a star receiver and punt returner for the Los Angeles Rams. Upon leaving the franchise in 1993, he held the majority of their career receiving and returning records. After a strong first two years in Washington, his age began to catch up to him. He split his final season between D.C. and New England, where he caught five passes in five games.

  • WR Torry Holt

    Holt has reached finalist status a number of times in the past, and really does deserve to be enshrined in Canton. He was an integral part of the Greatest Show on Turf Rams teams, where he put up eight straight 1,000-plus yard seasons. His 117-catch, 1,696-yard, 12-touchdown 2003 campaign is among the best single seasons ever put together by a wide receiver. He joined the Patriots for training camp in 2012, but a knee injury kept him from making the team.

    FOXBORO, MA – AUGUST 02: Torry Holt #84 of the New England Patriots catches a pass during training camp on August 2, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

     

  • WR Chad Johnson

    Johnson is best known for his personality, but people often forget just how good of a player he was. Stuck on some bad offenses in Cincinnati, he never got to put up massive numbers. Yet he was one of the best pure route runners during his time in the league.

    Somehow, Ochocinco has never even been a finalist since becoming eligible for the Hall in 2017. No worries though, there’s still 88 years left before his jacket template becomes obsolete.

  • WR Reggie Wayne

    Like Holt, Wayne had a stellar career as a part of an all-time offensive unit with Peyton Manning’s Colts. Over the course of 14 NFL seasons, he racked up 1,070 catches (10th all-time), 14,345 yards (10th), and 82 touchdowns (25th). He retired after a very brief stint in Patriots training camp in 2015.

    Wayne has been a finalist three times, and it was a bit of a surprise he didn’t get in alongside Peyton last year.

  • WR Wes Welker

    Welker failed to make it past the initial round of voting last year, his first on the ballot. He was the best slot receiver in the league for multiple years, and between 2007 and 2013, nobody even came close to Welker’s reception total of 745 (Brandon Marshall is the next closest player with 692). His 903 career catches rank 22nd all-time.

    Yet the Hall hasn’t been kind to players at niche positions in recent years. In terms of receivers, they’ve leaned more towards typical outside, down field pass catchers. Whether he deserves it or not, Welker would break the mold by getting into Canton.

  • TE Ben Coates

    Before there was Gronk, there was Ben Coates. During his 10-year playing career (1991-2000), including nine seasons in New England, Coates had the second most receptions (499) and yards (5,555) by any NFL tight end, behind only Shannon Sharpe. No other tight end, including Sharpe, scored more touchdowns (50).

    That feels like the definition of dominating an era, yet he’s never even been voted as far as a finalist. How has he not gotten in yet? It’s hard to say.

  • G Logan Mankins

    A first-round pick in 2005, Mankins did what many linemen struggle to do – he stayed on the field. The Fresno State product 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.

    Mankins didn’t make it past the initial round in his first year on the ballot in 2021, perhaps because his 11-year career is shorter than the average Hall of Fame lineman. Yet looking long-term, he absolutely belongs in Canton.

  • G Brian Waters

    Waters was an underrated player during his career, which was mostly spent with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, one of his six All-Pro seasons came with the Patriots, who he joined late in his career. He’s never been a finalist, now in his fifth year on the ballot.

    FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 24: Brian Waters #54 of the New England Patriots prepares to block Jared Odrick #98 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of New England’s 27-24 win at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

  • DL Richard Seymour

    Seymour made it to the finalist round last year, his third time reaching that stage. He likely has the best shot of anybody on this list of being inducted in 2022 – especially if Bill Belichick continues campaigning for him as he’s done in the past.

    The thing that’s important to remember about Seymour is that while his numbers may not be eye-popping, he was so dominant he could regularly impact plays away from the ball. When Seymour entered the league, teams favored bigger, anchoring nose tackles. Yet Seymour’s athleticism proved to be a valuable chess piece for some of the most dominant defensive units of the 21st century, and his success opened coaches eyes and created opportunities for similar players, such as three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

  • NT Vince Wilfork

    Speaking of big, anchor like nose tackles, let’s move on to Vince Wilfork. Wilfork is the lone member of this list who is in his first year on the ballot.

    Like Seymour, Wilfork’s career can’t truly be appreciated by just looking at his stats. His presence alone was enough to impact blocking schemes, and the Patriots rushing defense was top-10 during his time with the team. In fact, when he missed 12 games in 2013 their rank against the run dropped all the way to 30th. Wilfork was incredibly durable as well. That 2013 season was the only time he failed to play at least 13 games, and he played a full 16 in nine of his 13 seasons.

    Long story short, Wilfork belongs in Canton at some point.

    Vince Wilfork: The Man, The Myth, The Legend | NFL Films Presents

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  • LB Tedy Bruschi

    Bruschi did so much to elevate the Patriots organization to where it is now, both on and off the field. His contributions can’t solely be measured in stats or league honors, which is part of what makes him special but also hurts his Hall of Fame case.

    Playing in the same era as guys like Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Zack Thomas, and Derrick Brooks, he was never one of the ‘elite’ linebackers during his career. He’s an all-time Patriot, but didn’t have the league-wide impact he needed to get to Canton (as much as New England would love to see it).

  • LB, DE Willie McGinest

    Somehow, Willie McGinest was only named an All-Pro twice in his 15 year career. Yet he accrued 86 career sacks, and his 96 tackles for a loss are the fifth-most by any player during his time in the NFL. He also holds the all-time playoff sack record for both a single game (4.5) and a career (16).

  • CB Asante Samuel

    Samuel was one of the better corners in football in the late 00’s. A two-time All-Pro, he led the league in interceptions twice (2006, 2009). He also made four straight Pro Bowls from 2007-2010.

    Yet he never hit that ‘elite’ shutdown corner level others in his era had such as Champ Bailey (inducted in 2019) and Charles Woodson (2021). He’s never made it past the first round of voting.

  • S Rodney Harrison

    Rodney Harrison clearly had a Hall of Fame career. It shouldn’t be a debate. He was a four-time All-Pro, and during his run with the Patriots he was considered by most to be the best strong safety in football. He has the most sacks of any defensive back in history (30.5), and was the first ever player to record both 30 sacks and 30 interceptions in a career. Only Ray Lewis has since matched him.

    Despite all of that, Harrison has only reached the semifinalist round once, and never been a finalist. Why? It’s likely a combination of his reputation as a “dirty” player, as well as the team he played for. Harrison has criticized the process in the past, claiming it has a “lazy” anti-Patriots bias (which isn’t necessarily incorrect, just looking at this list). That couldn’t have sat well with the selection committee.

    Perhaps his advance to the second round of voting last season is a sign his case is gaining traction among the voters. Hopefully that’s the case, because he truly is one of the game’s all-time greats and deserves to be recognized as such.

  • S Adrian Wilson

    Wilson played 12 solid years in Arizona, with three All-Pro honors. The safety-needy Patriots signed Wilson in free agency 2013. People were excited to see what an intelligent player like Wilson could do working with Bill Belichick.

    That picture would never come to fruition unfortunately, as Wilson injured his Achilles at the end of training camp and was released the next spring. Overall, he was a good player, but Canton may be a stretch.

    ST. LOUIS – NOVEMBER 02: Marc Bulger #10 of the St. Louis Rams fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Adrian Wilson #24 of the Arizona Cardinals on November 2, 2008 at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Arizona recovered the fumble. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

  • P Jeff Feagles

    Feagles began his career as a UDFA in New England. He spent the first two of his 22 NFL seasons with the Patriots before spending time with the Eagles, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Giants. By spending so much of his career with bad teams, he was able to set a number of NFL longevity records, such as most career punts (1,713) and punt yards (71,211). If they start putting punters in with more regularity (as opposed to one every 50 years) he has a chance.

    OAKLAND, CA – SEPTEMBER 8: Punter Jeff Feagles #10 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to receive the football before his punt against the Oakland Raiders during the game on September 8, 2002 at the Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 31-17. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

  • Players removed

    Three Patriots who were on last year’s initial ballot are not listed as nominees this year. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe and linebacker Jerod Mayo were both removed, while John Lynch was inducted as a part of the Class of 2021.