2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame predictions: Will Terrell Owens finally get in?

If you watch the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction on Saturday, you'll probably notice that Terrell Owens isn't one of the players being inducted. 

For the second straight year, the former Cowboys receiver was a finalist, but in the end, the selection committee decided to pass on him for reasons that may not actually have to do with football, which doesn't make much sense when you're talking about a Pro FOOTBALL Hall of Fame. 

Although Owens didn't make it in 2017, seven people did: LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones are all set to be enshrined, which leads us to an obvious question. 

Will Owens make it in 2018?

To figure that out, we've decided to go ahead and predict the five players who we think will get the induction call next year. 

Before we get to the list, here's a brief look at the induction process. 

At some point in September, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee will get a list of about 100 players who have been nominated for the Class of 2018. At that point, the committee will be asked to whittle the list down to 25 semi-finalists. A month or two after that, the committee will be asked to trim the list down to 15 finalists. There will also be one contributor finalist and two finalists from the seniors committee, which will bring the total number of finalists next year to 18.

From that total, voting rules from the Hall of Fame stipulate that at least four people get inducted each year, with a maximum of eight.

To be inducted, a finalist needs to receive at least 80 percent support from the 46-person selection committee. The 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced in an NBC television special that's tentatively set to air Feb. 3, 2018, the day before Super Bowl LII.

So who will be in Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018?

Let's find out.

Class of 2018 predictions 

Note: This is only the prediction for modern-era players. The contributor nominee and seniors committee finalists will be announced later this month.

Terrell Owens, wide receiver

After being named a Hall of Fame finalist in each of the past two years, but not getting inducted, Terrell Owens will be hoping his third time is a charm. The one thing that seems to be keeping Owens from induction is that he's basically viewed as one of the most controversial candidates in recent history. 

Even though the selection committee is supposed to focus on what a player did on the field during his career, several members have admitted that they voted against Owens due to his off-field behavior. Apparently, many voters view Owens as a selfish teammate, who disrupted every locker room he was in during his 15-year career.  

The good news for Owens is that in 2018, he actually might be one of the least controversial players on a Hall of Fame ballot that will also include Randy Moss (mooned fans in Green Bay) and Ray Lewis (pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a murder case). 

The other good news for Owens is that there's no longer a logjam at the receiver position. Now that Marvin Harrison, Andre Reed and Tim Brown have all been enshrined in Canton, that leaves Owens as the next obvious receiver to get the call for induction. 

Owens' numbers say he belongs in Canton. Getty Images

If you look at his numbers, it's really a no-brainer that Owens should be voted in.

During his 15-year career, the six-time Pro Bowler racked up 1,078 catches for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns. In terms of NFL history, Owens is sixth all-time in receptions, third all-time in receiving yards and second all-time in touchdown catches. Those are Hall of Fame numbers whether you like Owens or not.

Of course, if Owens does get inducted, the biggest loser in that situation would probably be Moss. The selection committee has never elected two receivers in the same year, and it's hard to imagine them breaking that trend in 2018, which means Moss would be the odd man out. If the committee is willing to make Owens wait three years for induction due to his antics, it won't be a surprise at all to see them make Moss wait at least one more year for induction due to his antics. 

Ray Lewis, linebacker

When Ray Lewis officially announced that he was going to retire back in January 2013, he received one of the highest compliments possible from Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome

"Ray Lewis will not only be remembered as one of the greatest to play his position, he will also be thought of as one of the greatest players in NFL history," Newsome said four years ago.

The thing is, there was no hyperbole in Newsome's statement. Lewis is definitely one of the greatest players in NFL history. 

Back in January 2013, Lewis' retirement announcement came just before the playoffs started, and the linebacker had promised that he was going to call it quits as soon as the Ravens season was over. Thanks in large part to Lewis, the Ravens' season didn't end until they walked out of New Orleans with the Lombardi Trophy after a 34-31 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. 

The win over San Francisco capped a 17-year career for Lewis that included two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. If you look at Lewis' numbers, there's no doubt that he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  

Lewis will most likely enter Canton on his first ballot. USATSI

Not only did Lewis get voted to the Pro Bowl 13 times, but he was also named first-team All-Pro seven times. The linebacker was also named Super Bowl MVP following Baltimore's dominating 34-7 win over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. 

Although Lewis seems like a lock to get in, there's always a chance that voters could hold his off-the-field antics against him like they've done for Owens. Although Lewis' experience with deer antler spray might come up, voters would likely be much more concerned with a 2000 court case where Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a double murder that took place in Atlanta just before Super Bowl XXXV. Lewis had originally been charged with two counts of murder in the case before reaching a plea deal

If voters have been holding Owens' harmless antics against him, it'll be interesting to see what they do with Lewis. The guess here is that he gets in. 

Alan Faneca, offensive guard 

Terrell Owens isn't the only player who's been patiently waiting more than two years for induction. Faneca was a Hall of Fame finalist in both 2016 and 2017, but got shot down both times.

After two years of waiting, it feels like 2018 should be Faneca's year. The former first-round pick, who was selected 26th overall by the Steelers in 1998,  might go down as one of the most dependable offensive linemen in NFL history. 

During his 13-year career, he only missed two games, which means he played in 206 out of 208 regular season games. Not only did Faneca manage to stay healthy while playing in the trenches, but he managed to dominate while doing it.

During his 10 years in Pittsburgh, Faneca was voted first-team All-Pro a total of six times. The LSU grad was also voted to nine Pro Bowls in his 13 seasons. Faneca's blocking was a big reason why another Steeler, Jerome Bettis, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

During his 10 years in Pittsburgh, Faneca was voted first-team All-Pro a total of six times. Getty Images

During his career, Faneca played in four conference title games (three with Pittsburgh and one with the New York Jets). The lineman also won a Super Bowl with the Steelers in 2005.

Although the HOF selection committee has been showing some serious love to offensive lineman lately -- with six lineman getting voted in since 2012 (That number jumps up to eight if you also include the senior committee nominees in that time span) -- Faneca isn't the only offensive lineman who's name will be hotly debated in the selection room in 2018. 

Instead of Faneca, the committee could decide to go with former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli, or even Steve Hutchinson, who will be eligible for the first time in 2018. The guess here is that Boselli and Hutchinson will both be waiting at least one more year and Faneca will get the call.

John Lynch, safety

If you thought kickers had a tough time getting into the Hall of Fame, just wait until you hear what safeties have had to go through. If John Lynch gets elected, he'll be just the eighth pure safety in the history of Pro Football Hall of Fame (Players like Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott don't count as pure safeties because they also played a lot of corner). 

The HOF selection committee has basically been ignoring safeties for nearly 20 years now. The last safety to get elected to the Hall was Paul Krause, who was enshrined in 1998. Former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley is being inducted this year (2017), but that had nothing to do with the selection committee. Easley, who last played in 1987, made it to the Hall of Fame as a nominee of the seniors committee. 

Unfortunately for Lynch, he's not going to be able to go the seniors route, which means he's going to have to impress the committee with his career numbers, something that's not going to be easy. Although there isn't one Lynch stat that really blows you away --  he finished his career with 1,058 tackles, 26 interceptions and 13 sacks -- you have to consider what he was asked to do. While playing for the Buccaneers, Lynch was the last line of defense in a Tampa-2 design that was wildly successful for more than half a decade. 

Will John Lynch make it into the Hall of Fame on his fifth try? USATSI

During his 15-year career, Lynch went to nine Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro a total of two times. The Pro Bowl total is the tied for the second most of any safety in NFL history, trailing only the 10 that Hall of Famer Ken Houston went to during his career. 

Lynch, who's been a Hall of Fame finalist four times, was also a member of a Buccaneers team that won Super Bowl XXXVII. 

If Lynch doesn't get selected in 2018, he's likely in for a long wait. Two big-named safeties are about to become eligible, and both of them -- Ed Reed (2019), Troy Polamalu (2020) -- are likely first-ballot Hall of Famers. 

Lynch could also lose votes to former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who was an HOF finalist in 2017. If the HOF selection committee decides to elect a safety, Lynch seems like the best bet, but it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Dawkins get the call instead. Either way, it's almost a guarantee that the committee will select a safety after a 20-year drought.  

Don Coryell, NFL coach 

  • St. Louis Cardinals (1973-77)
  • Denver Broncos (1978-86)

When a Hall of Fame coach credits you for creating the modern passing game in today's NFL, that probably means it's time for you to get in the Hall of Fame, and that's exactly what Joe Gibbs did after Coryell died in 2010

"Don is the father of the modern passing game," Gibbs said at the time."He was extremely creative and fostered things that are still in today's game because he was so creative. You look around the NFL now and many teams are still running a version of the Coryell offense."

That "Coryell Offense" is known as to most people as "Air Coryell" and it took the NFL by storm in the 1970s. The vertical passing game that we take for granted today was virtually non-existent until Coryell brought it into the NFL. After refining his passing offense during four seasons with the Cardinals (1973-77), Coryell had basically perfected it when he got hired as the Chargers coach in 1978. 

At the time, Coryell took over for a Chargers team that was 1-3 and led them to a 9-7 record on the season. Without Coryell's offense, Dan Fouts probably wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. 

Before Coryell showed up, Fouts only averaged 1,532 yards, and seven touchdowns per season between from 1973-77. After the Chargers hired Coryell, Fouts put the "Air" in Coryell's offense by averaging 3,652 yards, 23 touchdowns over the next nine seasons. 

Coryell's offense was so unstoppable that the Chargers led the NFL in passing offense for six straight seasons (1978-83). The Chargers also had the NFL's top overall offense from 1980-83.  

Coryell is a big reason Dan Fouts is already in Canton. Getty Images

If the HOF committee is holding one thing against Coryell, it's probably the fact that he never went to a Super Bowl. During his 14 years as a coach, Coryell's teams went just 3-6 in postseason play. The closest Coryell came to ever getting to the big game came in both 1980 and 1981 when the Chargers made it to the AFC title game. 

Coryell also won two division titles during his time with the Cardinals, making him one of only two coaches in the Super Bowl-era to do that with the Cards (Ken Whisenhunt is the other). Coryell is also only one of two coaches in Cardinals franchise history to win at least 10 games in three different seasons (Bruce Arians is the other). 

After his final season with the Chargers in 1986, Coryell never coached in the NFL again and ended up finished his career with a 111-83-1 record. 

Oh, and let's not forget that Coryell has also been instrumental in getting many others to the Hall of Fame. Not only did his coaching tree include Gibbs and John Madden, but his prolific offense helped Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow and Fouts all get elected to the Hall. 

Just missed in 2018: Randy Moss, Tony Boselli, Jimmy Johnson, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Hines Ward, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Brian Urlacher, Steve Hutchinson and Brian Dawkins. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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