There are always deserving candidates left out of the Football Hall of Fame, and undoubtedly this Saturday’s announcement of the 2015 class will snub some big names from all over the field, but historically the snubs tend to skew towards the wide receivers. Since 1983, there have been just 13 receivers enshrined in Canton, and just five of those have occurred in the past decade.
One reason is that receivers are a product of the era they played in. For example, Tim Brown will be on the ballot for the sixth time, and he is considered one of the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history. He is fifth all-time in receptions (1,094), sixth in yards (14,934) and tied for seventh in touchdown receptions (100). However, after you adjust for the era he played in his hall of fame case loses some steam. Below is how he compares to first-time nominee Marvin Harrison in terms of receiving yards per game as a percentage of total net passing yards per game for the league. As you can see, Harrison was a larger part of the offense for his team than Brown ever was.
And while Brown did play a few more years, he still wasn’t as valuable as Harrison was over their respective tenures. According to Pro Football References approximate value, which is Doug Drinen’s method of putting a single numerical value on any player’s season, at any position, from any year, Harrison has a career-weighted AV of 124 to Brown’s 104. In fact, Harrison leads all wide receivers who could be considered worthy of being in this year’s conversation.
We can use first-team all-pro selections to further narrow the field. All wideouts in the Hall of Fame have had at least one selection with the exception of Andre Reed, who probably did not deserve induction after you tease out the effects of playing with hall of fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
So that leaves Harrison and Torry Holt as statistically worthy of the Hall of Fame. Both have a career-weighted AV of over 100, at least one first-team all-pro selection and multiple Pro Bowls. Harrison has the added benefit of being a Super Bowl champion in 2007, as was Holt as a rookie in 2000. He also played in Super Bowl XXXVI (2002 against New England) but was on the losing side.