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Thursday, July 26, 2007
Updated: August 2, 4:23 PM ET
Who's ticketed for Canton?


Cantonized

By Thomas Neumann and Scott Symmes
ESPN.com

Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
12 10 4 18 14 58

21. Shawne Merriman

Shawne Merriman
Merriman possesses an unparalleled combination of size and speed, evoking memories of a young Lawrence Taylor. But in addition to the risk of injury, which any player faces, there is also the specter of last season's four-game steroid suspension. Will he test positive for performance enhancers again and have his reputation permanently tarnished? Or will he test clean from now on and have the episode blow over like with Julius Peppers in 2002? With the prospect of playing against the Raiders twice a season for the rest of his career, it's not difficult to imagine Merriman ranking among the career sacks leaders someday.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
14 12 16 4 11 57

22. John Lynch

John Lynch
Known for his toughness on the field and his philanthropy off it, Lynch is one of the most accomplished safeties in league history. He has been selected to eight Pro Bowls and recorded at least one interception in 11 consecutive seasons (1995-2005). A member of seven playoff teams, Lynch won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers and helped Denver reach the AFC Championship Game in the 2005 season.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
14 14 14 6 9 57

23. Alan Faneca

Alan Faneca
Judging by the current contract impasse, the Steelers apparently don't think Faneca is bound for Canton. However, he has been named to the past six Pro Bowls and has been one of the most consistent guards in the game -- missing just two games since being drafted in the first round in 1998. Did we mention he already has a Super Bowl ring? Faneca has said he will play out his contract in Pittsburgh this season and move on to a new team in 2008. Considering that five guards without a single Pro Bowl appearance among them signed contracts worth about $7 million annually this offseason, Faneca should command a significant pact next year.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
16 12 10 9 10 57

24. Steve Hutchinson

Steve Hutchinson
Hutchinson is the highest-paid (and arguably best) guard in the NFL today. He helped carve space for Shaun Alexander in Seattle -- coincidentally, Alexander averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry without Hutchinson last season -- and now has the chance to help mold Adrian Peterson into a superstar in Minnesota. He has been named to four Pro Bowls in his first six seasons and earned All-Pro recognition three times. Plus, the durable Hutchinson hasn't missed a game in his pro career.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
13 12 12 5 14 56

25. Brian Dawkins

Brian Dawkins
The heart and soul of the Eagles' defense, Dawkins doesn't appear to be slowing down with age. He had one of his best seasons in 2006, cementing his reputation as one of the game's premier ballhawks by making several big plays during Philadelphia's late-season surge. Dawkins has been named to six Pro Bowls and has played in an Eagles-record 13 playoff games. He is the only player in league history to have recorded a sack, a fumble recovery and a touchdown reception in the same game.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
14 16 11 6 9 56

26. Walter Jones

Walter Jones
A lot of players would suffer from missing the better part of four training camps in the prime of their careers. Not Jones. A holdout four times because of contract disputes (2001-04), Jones still emerged as one of the best left tackles in the game as well as one of the Seahawks' undisputed leaders. Jones, who ended his camp-skipping streak when he signed a long-term deal with Seattle in February 2005, has been selected to the past six Pro Bowls and helped Shaun Alexander rack up 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground in Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl season.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
15 14 6 7 14 56

27. Jason Taylor

Jason Taylor
Whether rushing the passer, stopping the run or even dropping into coverage, Taylor has few peers in terms of creating chaos for opposing offenses. From a three-point stance or a standing start on the corner, Taylor presents a mismatch quandary for rival coaching staffs. Taylor has been named to five Pro Bowls in 10 seasons and was last season's Defensive Player of the Year. He has scored seven career defensive touchdowns and is the Dolphins' career leader with 106 sacks. The only strike against him is Miami's lack of recent postseason success.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
16 14 10 6 9 55

28. Shaun Alexander

Shaun Alexander
Alexander watched Thomas Jones and Ron Dayne be selected ahead of him in the 2000 draft. Someday, Jones and Dayne likely will watch Alexander go into the Hall of Fame. Alexander, the No. 19 pick seven years ago, has rushed for more than 1,400 yards three times and set a single-season record (since broken) with 27 rushing touchdowns two seasons ago. The 2005 league MVP and three-time Pro Bowler already ranks ninth in career rushing touchdowns with 96, although a foot injury and a 3.6 yards-per-carry average last year are cause for some concern.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
14 12 8 10 11 55

29. Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers
A unique blend of speed, size and ferocity makes Peppers one of the most dangerous defensive players in the league. Simply put, Peppers is an expert at wreaking havoc. He has amassed double-digit sack totals in four of his five seasons and forced 17 career fumbles. Already Carolina's all-time leader in sacks (53.5), Peppers has been selected to the past three Pro Bowls. After helping the Panthers reach the Super Bowl in the 2003 season, Peppers was named first-team All-Pro with 11 sacks and two defensive touchdowns in 2004.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
13 12 4 14 12 55

30. Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates
Gates has eclipsed Tony Gonzalez as the NFL's preeminent tight end, having earned All-Pro honors each of the past three seasons. In that span, Gates has averaged 80 catches, 996 yards and 11 touchdowns per season -- stats that would make most wide receivers jealous. Teamed with LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers, it's reasonable to think Gates will continue to put up gaudy statistics and compete in the playoffs for years to come. Injury is the only potential obstacle between him and Canton.


Cantonized: Hall of Fame predictions

Selections 1-10
Selections 11-20
Selections 31-40
Selections 41-50
On the bubble
Odd men out
The list: 1-50