LaDainain Tomlinson is the headliner among the finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
And well he should be. It’s his first time on the ballot, and he brings a healthy resume to the selection committee. Tomlinson ranks fifth all-time in rushing with 13,684 yards. The four players in front of him on the list have already been enshrined, as have the two players directly behind him. Tomlinson also ranks third all-time in touchdowns with 163. The two players ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame (Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith).
The selection committee loves statistics, especially offensive ones. If there’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the Class of 2017, it will likely be Tomlinson. But will there be another? There are six other first-time finalists on the ballot of 15 modern-era candidates. And that’s the subject of this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll – which of those six players has the best chance for first-time induction?
In addition to Tomlinson, Brian Dawkins and Jason Taylor are first-time eligibles. Tony Boselli, Isaac Bruce, Ty Law and Kevin Mawae have been eligible in the past but this is their first time in the room as finalists. So here’s is your slate of candidates:
Tony Boselli. A member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. The second overall pick of the 1995 NFL draft – and the first pick ever by the Jacksonville franchise – Boselli became a walk-in starter and played seven seasons for the Jaguars before knee injuries cut short his career. He was voted to five Pro Bowls and was a three-time first-team All-Pro selection. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Isaac Bruce. A second-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams out of Memphis in 1994, Bruce played 16 seasons and ranks 13th all-time in receptions (1,024) and fourth in yards (15,208). He had one 100-catch season and eight 1,000-yard seasons. Bruce was a key member of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis and caught the game-winning touchdown for the Rams, a 73-yarder, in the closing minutes of the 2000 Super Bowl. He went to four Pro Bowls.
Brian Dawkins. A member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. A second-round draft pick by the Eagles out of Clemson in 1996, Dawkins played 16 seasons and went to the Pro Bowl in more than half of them (nine). He intercepted 37 career passes and also collected 26 sacks, proving to be a playmaker on both sides of the line of scrimmage. In 2002 against Houston he became the first player in NFL history to have a sack, forced fumble, an interception and an interception for a touchdown in the same game.
Ty Law. A member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. A first-round draft pick by the Patriots out of Michigan in 1995, Law played 15 seasons and ranks 15th on the all-time interception list with 53. He led the NFL in interceptions twice (9 for the Patriots in 1998 and 10 for the Jets in 2005). Law played on three Super Bowl champions with the Patriots and was voted to five Pro Bowls. He also returned an interception of Kurt Warner 47 yards for a touchdown in the 2002 Super Bowl.
Kevin Mawae. A member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. A second-round pick by the Seahawks out of LSU in 1994, Mawae played 16 seasons with three franchises – the Seahawks, Jets and Titans. His teams finished in the Top 5 in rushing offense eight times and he blocked for 13 1,000-yard rushing seasons by five different backs. He also blocked for two NFL rushing champions, including a 2,000-yard rusher in Chris Johnson. Mawae started 238 of his 241 career games and went to eight Pro Bowls.
Jason Taylor. A member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. A third-round pick by the Dolphins out of Akron in 1997, Taylor played 15 seasons and ranks ninth on the all-time sack list with 139 ½. He forced an NFL-record-tying 48 fumbles. Taylor also recovered 23 fumbles and scored nine touchdowns – six on fumble recoveries and three on interceptions. He was the NFL sack champion with 18 ½ in 2002 and was voted to six Pro Bowls.