Projecting 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame class: Andre Johnson headlines early look at next year

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is inducting not one, but two classes this weekend. Among those inducted in the 2020 and 2021 classes include former quarterback Peyton Manning, safety Troy Polamalu, defensive back Charles Woodson, receiver Calvin Johnson, running back Edgerrin James, coaches Bill Cowher, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Flores, and contributors Bill Nunn and Steve Sabol. 

So, who’ll get in next year? It’s never too early to start looking ahead to the 2022 Hall of Fame class. There are several deserving players who will be eligible for the first time. There are also several notable players who may finally receive their bronze bust and gold jacket next summer after years of waiting. 

Without further ado, here’s a prediction of what the 2022 Hall of Fame class may look like. 

Potential modern-era nominees (6)

WR Andre Johnson (2003-16): The former Texans star will be eligible for the first time in 2022. A seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Johnson led the NFL in receiving in 2008 and in 2009. One of the most physically dominant receivers ever, Johnson retired with 1,062 catches with 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns. 

OLB DeMarcus Ware (2005-16): A menacing pass rusher, Ware twice led the NFL in sacks during his nine seasons with the Cowboys. After 117 sacks in Dallas, Ware took his talents to Denver, where he and Von Miller posed the NFL’s most formidable pass rushing duo. The duo helped lead the Broncos to a victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Ware retired with 138.5 sacks and eight double-digit sack seasons. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2022. 

WR Reggie Wayne (2001-14): The Batman to Marvin Harrison’s Superman, Wayne was part one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses during the 2000s. Wayne — who spent his entire 15-year career with the Colts — got a key touchdown in the Colts’ victory over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. He later served as Manning’s No. 1 option during the team’s 2009 Super Bowl run. Wayne retired with 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns. 

OT Tony Boselli (1995-02): A member of the NFL’s All-1990s Team, Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro. His presence helped the Jaguars reach two AFC title games during the franchise’s first five years of existence. Boselli would already be in Canton if not for an injury that prematurely ended his career after fewer than 100 games. 

LB Zach Thomas (1996-08): Thomas was a tacking machine who racked up 1,734 tackles during his 13-year career. A key member of Miami’s talented mid-90s defense, Thomas was a seven-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s All-2000s Team. The 2017 induction of former teammate Jason Taylor could be a reason why Thomas continues to wait for his own induction. 

DE/DT Richard Seymour (2001-12): The sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft, Seymour helped the Patriots capture their first of six Super Bowls during his rookie season. Seven years later, Seymour left New England as a three-time champion, five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Seymour added two more Pro Bowl selections to his resume during his four years with the Raiders. 

Potential senior nominee (1) 

WR Cliff Branch (1972-85): Branch helped revolutionize the game by becoming one of the most dangerous deep ball threats of his era. In 1974, his first season as a starter, Branch led the league in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Over the next three years, he would earn three Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro nods while again leading the NFL in touchdown receptions in 1976. That was also the season where Branch helped the Raiders compile a 13-1 regular season record en route to the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl win.

Potential coach nominee (1) 

Dick Vermeil (Eagles, 1976-83; Rams, 1996-99; Chiefs, 2001-05)

After leading UCLA to a Rose Bowl victory over Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes, Vermeil took over a struggling Eagles franchise in 1976 and turned them into a playoff team in 1978. Two years later, Vermeil guided the Eagles to their first-ever NFC title. 

After a 14-year break, Vermeil returned to the sidelines in 1997, taking over a Rams team that was among the worst in football during the decade. After two losing seasons, Vermeil and the Rams went on a magic carpet ride in 1999, as the Rams transformed into the “Greatest Show on Turf” behind quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The ’99 Rams won 13 regular season games before defeating the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, evening Vermiel’s Super Bowl record in the process.