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The Top Players Eligible for the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame

By Evan Chronis

With Gold Jackets handed out and busts perfectly sculpted, the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class is now in the books. With that said, it's time to look forward to the names that could be up next in 2019. With the first batch of nominations to be announced in mid-September, there are some names that are shoe-ins and some that are long-shots when it comes to players that are entering their first year of eligibility. 

While entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an illustrious honor, making it in as on your first-ballot is an even greater accomplishment. 

Here's a list of the top eligible first-ballot nominees and their chances at making it into the 2019 Class: 

Tony Gonzalez

Tight End for Kansas City Chiefs (1997-08) and Atlanta Falcons (2009-13)

First-Ballot Chances: High

Arguably the greatest tight end to ever play the game and maybe the easiest first-ballot Hall of Fame prediction in recent memory. Tony Gonzalez's eligibility and retrospective on his career will remind fans why he was one of the most beloved players and personalities to touch the field in NFL history. Gonzalez is the most accomplished tight end in NFL history, with 14 Pro Bowl selections in 17 seasons. He also finished his career ranked seventh all-time in receiving touchdowns (111), sixth in receiving yards (15,127) and second in receptions (1,325). With numbers like that, we can confidently say that Gonzalez is an early favorite to be a part of the Class of 2019.

Ed Reed

Safety for the Baltimore Ravens (2002-13), Hoston Texans (2013) and New York Jets (2013)

First-Ballot Chances: High

After being the most feared safety in the league for 12 seasons, Ed Reed's name should be in Canton soon. The long-time Baltimore Raven went to the Pro Bowl nine times in his career and led the league in interceptions three times. Reed scored 13 touchdowns in his career, a whopping total for a defense player. He earned a Super Bowl ring in his final season with the Ravens in 2012 when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers. 

Champ Bailey

Cornerback for Washington Redskins (1999-03) and Denver Broncos (2004-13)

First-Ballot Chances: Likely

In the past, you could consider Champ Bailey as a player that deserves a shout for a first-ballot entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but could also get in on his second or third try. But with the recent induction of Brian Urlacher as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2018, Bailey's case only grows stronger. While never reaching the top of the mountain with a Super Bowl ring, Bailey reigned as the game's top cornerback for over a decade. A 12-time Pro Bowler with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos combined, Bailey picked off 52 passes in his career, ranking 26th all-time. Those numbers may be even higher if opposing quarterbacks didn't intentionally throw away from Bailey in man coverage for the better part of a decade. 

London Fletcher

Linebacker for St. Louis Rams (1998-01), Buffalo Bills (2002-06) and Washington Redskins (2007-13)

First-Ballot Chances: Long Shot

With injuries plaguing the NFL and its players for so long, it's impressive to find an athlete who can get himself onto the field week after week for several years. That's part of the allure of London Fletcher. Over his 16-year playing career, Fletcher played in 256 consecutive games and started 215 consecutive games — a record for the linebacker position. Fletcher recorded 1,380 tackles over his career and 39 sacks, but only made the Pro Bowl four times. 

Brian Waters

Guard for Dallas Cowboys (1999, 2013), Kansas City Chiefs (2000-10) and New England Patriots (2011-12)

First-Ballot Chances: Long Shot

Offensive linemen have the difficult job of standing out stats-wise when it comes to Hall of Fame nominations, but Brian Waters still had a strong case. During his 13-year career mostly with the Kansas City Chiefs, Waters collected six Pro Bowl appearances and was the face of Kansas City's offensive line every year of his time there. But the numbers don't work in his favor — there are 13 guards in the Hall of Fame and all were named All-Pro more times than Waters, who was named twice.  

Asante Samuel

Cornerback for New England Patriots (2003-07), Philadelphia Eagles (2008-11) and Atlanta Falcons (2012-13)

First-Ballot Chances: Long Shot

Asante Samuel is an unlikely candidate to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but his chances against early induction increase when he's paired with names like Bailey and Reed. To be honest, he can't hold a candle to the other two in this situation. And that's not to take away from Samuel, but more to emphasize the impact that Bailey and Reed had in the secondary. On his own, Samuel put together a terrific career. He amassed 51 interceptions in 153 career games, including seven playoff interceptions, and won two championships with the New England Patriots. 

Be at Enshrinement Week 2019!

With these names plus many other up as possibilities for enshrinement, you won't want to miss out on the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls! Make sure to consider the 4-Day Diamond Package, the Thursday Single Day Package or the Saturday Single Day Package.

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