Not every great player is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Like every sport, there are more than a few former NFL players who enjoyed distinguished careers that for whatever reason have yet to be immortalized with a bronze bust and a gold jacket.
While they are still waiting on the doors of Canton, Ohio, CBS Sports has decided to honor some of these former players by compiling an all-time roster comprised of some of the NFL's best non-Hall of Fame players. The criteria when making the roster was simple: build a roster that is capable of beating the best teams in today's NFL. Players also had to be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in order to be considered.
Below is the entire 53-man roster that includes starters, backups and depth players.
Without further ado, let's get started.
Vick's career may have fallen short of Hall of Fame standards, but his talent is unquestionably worthy of Canton. A four-time Pro Bowler and the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year, Vick (arguably the most athletic quarterback in league annals) would create headaches for any of today's defenses. Jackson, like Vick, displayed undeniable talent in what was an abbreviated career. Jackson's unique blend of speed and power is complemented in the backfield by Craig, the first player to tally 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Rounding out the backfield is Williams, who used his speed, power and elusiveness to capture the 2002 rushing title. Clearing the way for this group of backs is Alstott, the engine behind the Buccaneers' first championship offense.
A two-time champion with the Giants, Bavaro headlines a talented trio of tight ends. Like Bavaro, Christensen and Novacek were complete tight ends who won a combined five Super Bowls with the Raiders and Cowboys. Sharpe, the older brother of Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, was a five-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL in receiving in 1992 and touchdown receptions in '92 and '94. The receiving corps also includes Branch, an elite deep threat who won three Super Bowls with the Raiders. The offensive line includes two of the biggest Hall of Fame snubs in left tackles Boselli and Jacoby.
Greenwood, who recorded a Super Bowl record four sacks of Roger Staubach in Super Bowl X, is the lone representative of the Steelers' vaunted "Steel Curtain" defense. The defensive line also includes a member of the Bears' infamous "46" defense (McMichael) and one player from the Patriots' first run of championships (Seymour). The line also includes the versatile Klecko, who earned Pro Bowls at defensive end, defense tackle and nose tackle.
The starting linebacker unit includes All-Decade performers Thomas, Willis, and Bennett. Swilling won Defensive Player of the Year in 1991 after leading the league in sacks. Mills, Swilling's former teammate in New Orleans, helped lead the Panthers to the franchise's first NFC title game in 1996 at age 37. Two decades earlier, the play of Gradishar helped spearhead the Broncos' first Super Bowl run. The unit also features two former Cowboys' Super Bowl MVPs in Howley and Martin.
It doesn't get much better than this secondary. Nicknamed "The Judge," Hayes won Defensive Player of the Year in 1980 after picking off 13 passing for the Super Bowl champion Raiders. Complementing Hayes in the starting lineup is Riley, a member of the Bengals' inaugural Ring of Honor class who picked off 65 passes during his career. Safeties Woodson and Scott played integral roles on legendary teams in Miami and Dallas. Cherry, a 1980s All-Decade performer who earned six consecutive Pro Bowl selections, picked off 50 passes during his dozen seasons in Kansas City. Butler's presence at the line of scrimmage contributed to the Packers' four interceptions in Green Bay's Super Bowl win over New England.
|PR||Desmond Howard||Torry Holt|
|KR||Desmond Howard||Hines Ward|
It was a tight race between Howard, Rick Upchurch and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson. The nod ultimately went to Howard, who had as many career regular season punt returns for touchdowns (eight) as Upchurch. Howard never returned a kickoff for a score during the regular season (something Johnson did twice), but he did record a 99-yard kickoff return for a score while clinching MVP honors in Green Bay's Super Bowl win over New England. Howard authored arguably the greatest season by a return man. During the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl run, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner returned three punts for scores during the regular season and another during the postseason.