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Friday, July 27, 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
10 2 0 20 18 50

41. Matt Leinart

Matt Leinart
Forget about that decal on the side of his helmet. Pretend it isn't there. If Leinart wore almost any other helmet, yet still had weapons such as Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Edgerrin James at his disposal, you wouldn't be snickering. Fact is, Leinart completed 64.8 percent of his passes in college, with 99 touchdowns and just 23 interceptions en route to two national titles. Plus, his rookie statistics last season were comparable to Peyton Manning's in his rookie campaign in 1998. If you can look past that Cardinals decal, it's possible to see Leinart in Canton a couple of decades from now.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
13 11 18 2 4 48

42. Rod Smith

Rod Smith
Thanks to a second Super Bowl ring, Smith earns a slight edge in our grading system over Isaac Bruce, a player with a similar track record. What Smith lacked in flamboyance, he made up for in substance. He ranks 11th in career receptions and has eight 1,000-yard seasons, including a monster 1,602-yard season in 2000. Not bad for an undrafted free agent from Missouri Southern State. However, he has been named to only three Pro Bowls in 12 seasons, an intangible that indicates his peers and coaches around the league didn't regularly consider him among the best at his position.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
10 9 14 6 9 48

43. Hines Ward

Hines Ward
Who will go down as the most prolific receiver in Steelers history? Here's a hint: it's neither John Stallworth nor Lynn Swann, both celebrated Hall of Famers. It's Ward, who already holds the franchise mark for career receptions (648) and is in line to pass Stallworth as the team's all-time receiving yardage leader in 2007. Although Ward's statistics have fallen off a bit the past two seasons (in part because of Pittsburgh's run-heavy offense), his chances for enshrinement are enhanced by an impressive postseason résumé (57 catches, 761 yards and eight touchdowns) that includes a Super Bowl MVP award.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
12 11 2 10 13 48

44. Chad Johnson

Chad Johnson
Johnson is clearly among the elite at his position. He has averaged 92.3 receptions, 1,358 yards and 8.8 touchdowns per season since 2003 en route to being named to the Pro Bowl each year. Johnson is in an advantageous situation in Cincinnati's pass-first offense with an elite quarterback in Carson Palmer to deliver the ball. But Johnson is 29. Can he produce at his current level for another seven or eight years? If he can -- especially if he can win a Super Bowl -- Canton is a distinct possibility.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
8 6 8 14 11 47

45. Lofa Tatupu

Lofa Tatupu
The Seahawks traded three picks to move into position to select Tatupu in the second round of the 2005 draft. Almost immediately, Tatupu emerged as one of the Seahawks' defensive leaders. He stabilized the team's middle linebacker spot and became the first rookie in 28 years to lead the Seahawks in tackles. The fact that he's been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons indicates he already is respected by peers and coaches around the league as one of the NFL's top linebackers.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
10 5 2 18 12 47

46. DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware
There was no sophomore jinx for Ware, who earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season after recording 11½ sacks and five forced fumbles. He boasts exceptional pass-rush skills coming off the edge, and there's no reason to think Ware won't continue to progress under new head coach Wade Phillips, whose defensive blueprint allowed Shawne Merriman to flourish in San Diego. After Ware's big strides in 2006, we predict he will emerge as one of the preeminent linebackers in '07.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
10 11 2 13 10 46

47. Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson
Ever since Dick Vermeil advised Johnson to "take off the diaper" in his rookie season, the former Penn State tailback hasn't lacked motivation. He has benefited from a fine offensive line in Kansas City, racking up 3,539 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground the past two seasons. But his average yards per carry dropped from 5.2 in 2005 to 4.3 last season after the retirement of 11-time Pro Bowl tackle Willie Roaf. Is this the beginning of a trend or just a hiccup?


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
8 6 3 14 14 45

48. Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson
Jackson enjoyed a breakout season in 2006, with 2,336 yards from scrimmage (fifth-best in NFL history), 90 receptions, 16 touchdowns and his first Pro Bowl selection. This after he racked up 1,366 yards from scrimmage in '05 while still sharing touches with Marshall Faulk. Like Faulk, he's just as dangerous as a runner or as a receiver. But unlike Faulk, he's a 230-pound brute equally capable of running over a defender or running around him. Jackson's durability leads us to believe he can pile up numbers for years to come and ultimately follow in Faulk's footsteps to Canton.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
8 4 0 18 14 44

49. A.J. Hawk

A.J. Hawk
Last year, we saw snapshots of brilliant things to come from Hawk. We're not talking about wedding photos but rather his rapid progress over the course of his rookie season in Green Bay. Hawk has tremendous instincts and a nose for the football. He improved greatly during the campaign, ultimately recording 121 tackles and two interceptions. Based on his exceptional instincts and knack for taking the best possible angle toward a play, it's quite possible Hawk could follow a career path similar to NFC North counterpart Brian Urlacher's.


Mort. Stats Team Upside Int. Total
6 0 0 20 18 44

50. Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson
Peterson is a dynamic runner whose upright style evokes memories of another native Texan, Eric Dickerson. He possesses a rare combination of speed, vision and power that terrorized opposing defenses to the tune of 5.4 yards per carry and 41 rushing touchdowns in his three seasons at Oklahoma. Undoubtedly, Peterson is a boom-or-bust prediction for Canton because of his injury history. But last season's broken collarbone was a fluke, and with his sturdy 6-foot-1½, 217-pound frame, there's no reason to assume he won't stay healthy.


Cantonized: Hall of Fame predictions

Selections 1-10
Selections 11-20
Selections 21-30
Selections 31-40
On the bubble
Odd men out
The list: 1-50