After changing its induction rules for 2020, things will be going back to normal at the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year, which means the class of 2021 will be a a lot smaller than this year's centennial class.
With the NFL celebrating its 100th anniversary this season, the HOF decided to change its bylaws for one year, which is why we're going to see a total of 20 players get inducted at the enshrinement ceremony in August. For 2021 though, the Hall of Fame will revert back to its old bylaws, which means we will be seeing a much smaller class. For next year, there will be at least four players inducted, with a maximum of eight.
The 2021 class has the potential to be one of the most stacked classes ever and that's because there are multiple players who will have a serious chance of getting voted in during their first-year of being eligible. If the 2021 consists of three first-ballot inductees, which is completely possible, it will become just the 10th class since 1970 to include three or more players who are getting in during their first year of eligibility.
So who has a shot to get into the Hall of Fame in 2021 as a first-year eligible player?
Let's find out.
Peyton Manning, QB: Colts (1998-2011), Broncos (2012-15)
If there is one lock for the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's definitely Peyton Manning. After an 18-year career that saw him win five MVP awards, the Sheriff is basically a shoo-in for induction. Manning is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history and he basically dominated opposing defenses for nearly two decades. During his 14-year run in Indianapolis, Manning led the Colts to two Super Bowls, which included a 29-17 win over the Bears in 2006.
After the Colts decided to move on from him following the 2011 season, Manning ended up in Denver, where he completely rejuvenated his career after missing the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury. Not only did Manning lead the Broncos to the playoffs in each of his four seasons with the team, but he also led them on two Super Bowl trips, and one Super Bowl title.
When it comes to NFL records, Manning is ranked in the top-five of nearly passing category that the NFL keeps track of. The quarterback finished his career with 71,490 yards and 539 touchdown passes, which both rank third all time. Although Eli Manning will definitely be a debatable case when he becomes eligible for the Hall in 2025, there's no debate with Peyton.
Charles Woodson, DB: Raiders (1998-2005, 2013-15), Packers (2006-2012)
If Woodson and Peyton Manning end up getting inducted to the Hall of Fame together, it would almost be fitting, and that's because they started their NFL careers together. Back in 1998, Woodson was the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft, taken just three spots behind Manning, who was selected with the first overall pick by the Colts.
Although it's not easy for a rookie corner to step in right away and succeed at the NFL level, that's exactly what Woodson during his first year with the Raiders. During his rookie season, not only did Woodson start all 16 games for the Raiders, but he also tied for the team lead in interceptions with five. Although Woodson had a solid start to his career in Oakland, he actually played some of his best football during his seven-year stint with the Packers. In Green Bay, Woodson led the NFL in interceptions twice (2009, 2011) and he also won his one and only Super Bowl ring. As career began to wind down, Woodson had no problem making the move from corner to safety. Woodson ended up returning to Oakland for the final three years of his career, where he added 10 more interceptions. The defensive back finished his career with 65 picks, which ranks fifth on the NFL's all-time list. Woodson also had 11 pick-sixes, which ranks second on the all-time list.
Calvin Johnson, WR: Lions (2007-15)
You can definitely make a strong argument that Calvin Johnson belongs in the Hall of Fame, but Megatron might have a tough time getting in during his first-year of eligibility, and that's mainly because his career was so short. Johnson decided to retire after just nine seasons, and that was mainly due to two reasons: His body was beat up and he was fed up with the Lions. As a matter of fact, Johnson actually did a recent interview where he took another shot at his former team.
"First thing, I'm like, 'Whoa, this is how you should take care of your players,'" Johnson told the Behind the Mask podcast. "I go to Miami -- it ain't like Miami's winning, but they're taking care of their players ... I go to Oakland, I'm like, 'Damn, we don't have none of this in Detroit.'"
Despite his sour relationship with the Lions, he did thrive during his time with the team. During his nine-year career, Johnson led was named an All-Pro three times and he led the NFL in receiving yards twice. Megatron also led the NFL in receptions in 2012 when he caught 122 passes. The impressive thing is that he did all of this even though he was usually the focal point of every opponent's defense. During that 2012 season, Johnson finished with 1,964 receiving yards, which is still the NFL's single-season record. As a matter of fact, no player in the NFL has even finished a season with 1,900 yards.
The biggest knock on Johnson is that he never really played on any good Lions teams. During his time in Detroit, the Lions went just 54-90 and he went 0-2 in the playoffs. Of course, no one will be blaming those losses on Johnson, especially his first one. Back in January 2012, Johnson caught 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-28 loss to the Saints.
Jared Allen, DE: Chiefs (2004-07), Vikings (2008-13), Bears (2014-15), Panthers (2015)
For most of his career, Jared Allen was one of the most unblockable pass rushers in the NFL. As a fourth-round pick, the Chiefs got a steal with Allen in 2004 when they were able to nab him with the 126th overall selection of the draft. In Kansas City, Allen made an immediate impact with the Chiefs, racking up an average of 10.75 sacks per season during his four years with the team. Allen's biggest season in Kansas City came in 2007 when he led the NFL with 15.5 sacks. Although that's an impressive number, he actually topped it during his time with the Vikings.
In 2011, Allen tallied a eye-popping 22 sacks, which is still tied as the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. Allen recorded at least nine sacks in nine of his 12 seasons. The four-time All-Pro finished his career with 136 sacks, which ranks as the 12th most all time. Allen didn't just put together a Hall of Fame career, but he also ended his time in the NFL with a Hall of Fame worth retirement video: He literally rode off into the sunset.
Riding off into the sunset pic.twitter.com/wZXovseGKS— Jared Allen (@JaredAllen69) February 18, 2016