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Pro Football Hall of Fame: Predicting the 2014 class

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

2014 could be the year Tim Brown finally gets in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (USATSI)
2014 could be the year Tim Brown finally gets in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (USATSI)

As soon as the names Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson were announced last February, that ended one debate -- who should be in the 2013 Hall of Fame class -- and started a new one: who should make it in 2014?

Predicting a Hall of Fame class is never easy and somebody almost always ends up unhappy, just ask Andre Reed.

Reed, the former Buffalo Bills receiver, has been on the outside looking in as a finalist since 2007. Getting into the Hall of Fame in 2014 isn't going to be any easier for Reed with former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison becoming eligible.

History says that a receiver isn't going to make it in on the first ballot, which means Harrison probably doesn't need to make hotel reservations in Canton, Ohio for next August.

Of the seven receivers inducted since 2000, only Jerry Rice made it in his first year of eligibility. If the selection committee doesn't put the now-eligible Harrison in, they'll be hard-pressed to put Reed in. Yes, Harrison and Reed played in different eras, but not completely different eras. Harrison arguably played in the era that bridged Reed's era with the pass-happy era we're in today.

With Harrison and Reed out, that opens up the door for Tim Brown. So who are the four players we project joining Brown in the 2014 class? Read on and find out.

Michael Strahan, Defensive End, New York Giants (1993-2007)

Strahan probably felt pretty snubbed when his name wasn't announced last February for the 2013 class, but he most likely won't be feeling that again in 2014. In 15 seasons with the Giants, Strahan tallied 141.5 career sacks, a number that ranks fifth all-time. Strahan also holds the single-season sack record (22.5), a record that's mostly remembered for the phantom sack Strahan got on Brett Favre to set the record. That aside, the seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro seems like a lock for 2014.

Derrick Brooks, Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995-2008)

If Brooks doesn't make it into the Hall of Fame, then they should stop having a Hall of Fame. The underrated Brooks is one of the best outside linebackers of all-time and was a big part why Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 defense was successful. In pass coverage, Brooks had the ability to cover large parts of the field, which in turn made things easier for teammates like John Lynch. Brooks finished his 14-year career with 11 Pro Bowl appearances, one Defensive Player of the Year award (2002) and one Super Bowl title.

Tim Brown, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1988-2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)

If Brown's going to get in the Hall of Fame, 2014 seems like a good year to do it. Brown, Reed and Harrison will create a logjam at receiver that could lead to some long arguments when the selection committee gets together. It's hard to argue with what Brown did in his career, he as the fifth most receptions (1,094) in NFL history, the fifth most receiving yards (14,934) and is tied with Hall of Famer Steve Largent for the seventh most touchdown catches (100). Brown accomplished all of this despite tearing the MCL and PCL in his left knee in Week 1 of 1989, only his second year in the league.

Walter Jones, Offensive Tackle, Seattle Seahawks (1997-2008)

The final playoff game of Walter Jones' career was a 42-20 January 2008 loss to Green Bay. (USATSI)
The final playoff game of Walter Jones' career was a 42-20 January 2008 loss to Green Bay. (USATSI)

The selection committee has been on an offensive linemen kick for the past the few years. With the exception of 2011, at least one offensive linemen has been selected for the Hall in every year since 2006, including two linemen -- Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden -- in the class of 2013. The 2014 class can make a strong case for two linemen -- Jones and Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields -- but we're going to go with Jones. Over 12 seasons, Jones played in 180 games and started every single one of those. The Seahawks left tackle was a nine-time Pro Bowler and made first-team All-Pro four times. Jones wasn't suppose to eligible for the Hall of Fame until 2015, but the Hall recently ruled that because Jones spent his final season in 2009 on injured reserve, he would be eligible a year earlier in 2014.

Jerome Bettis, Running Back, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1993-1995), Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-2005)

Bettis didn't just drive the bus in Pittsburgh, he also drove it with the Rams for three seasons in Los Angeles and St. Louis. After the Rams made Bettis the 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, Bettis went out and won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award thanks to 1,429 rushing yards, the second highest total of any back in the league. Bettis ranked third in NFL history with eight 1,000-yard seasons and fifth in career rushing yards with 13,662 when he retired after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.

Just missed: Charles Haley, Tony Dungy, Will Shields, Andre Reed, Marvin Harrison.

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