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Is Julius Peppers going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer?

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Is Julius Peppers a worthy first ballot Hall of Famer?

By: Jeremy Trottier

With early August only a few months away now, we are closer than ever to the 2022 NFL Hall of Fame induction. This year we will see Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, Leroy Butler, Art McNally, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, Dick Vermeil, and Bryant Young enshrined on August 6th. However, in the coming years, we will see even more all-time greats being enshrined. With the likes of Drew Brees, Joe Thomas, Jahri Evans, James Harrison, Shane Lechler, and more upcoming in the following years, we should see some great classes.

One player who falls into the 2024 eligibility will be Julius Peppers, 4th all-time in sacks and one of the greatest to do it of his generation. In this article, I will be breaking down if he is worthy of a first-ballot induction, which will include who could go ahead of him in 2024, as well as what he brought to the table as a player that made him worthy of such honors. Without further ado, let us start with the 2024 class.

2024 Hall of Fame eligible players & competition for ’24 ballot

There is a lot of talent coming up for the 2024 class. Keep in mind that there will be between 4-8 players per class that are enshrined (including coaches), so there would have to be at minimum 8 total players and coaches in a class that would definitely deserve it over Peppers to not give him a first-ballot induction. With that said, here are the headliners for the 2024 class:

  • Antonio Gates – TE
  • Eric Berry – S
  • Haloti Ngata – DT
  • Jamaal Charles – RB
  • Brandon Marshall – WR
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jordy Nelson – WR
  • Sebastian Janikowski – K
  • Phil Dawson – K
  • Josh Sitton – G

These are essentially the primary players that would even remotely have considerations above Peppers. On top of this, some players may sneak in from the 2023 class that are not inducted that year. Out of the group of 2024 members, I would say that Peppers had the most legacy and fulfillment in his career, aside from maybe Antonio Gates who could be debated. Based solely upon the other members of the 2024 class, Peppers would likely be a lock for a first-ballot election.

Statistical comparison to other first-ballot DL

The main thing you would want to look at for a defensive lineman is where he ranks among the other Hall of Famers of all time statistically, as well as among the other first-ballot players at his position. If we want to look at sacks first, the top 10 on the list all-time are almost all Hall of Famers, and many are the first ballot. As of this moment, here is the top 10 (11 as there is a tie for 10th) and their enshrinement status:

  1. Bruce Smith (200 sacks) – First ballot HOF
  2. Reggie White (198 sacks) – First ballot HOF
  3. Kevin Greene (160 sacks) – 13th ballot HOF
  4. Julius Peppers (159.5 sacks) – ’24 class eligible
  5. Chris Doleman (150.5 sacks) – First ballot HOF
  6. Michael Strahan (141.5 sacks) – First ballot HOF
  7. Jason Taylor (139.5 sacks) – First ballot HOF
  8. Terrell Suggs (139 sacks) – ’25 class eligible
  9. DeMarcus Ware (138.5 sacks) – ’22 class eligible (not selected first-ballot)
  10. Richard Dent/John Randle (137.5 sacks each) – 9th ballot HOF/First ballot HOF respectively

So, 6 out of the top 11 are first ballot hall of famers, and 2 more have not had their eligibility yet. To get a more precise number, 6 out of the 9 (66.7%) that have been eligible have been first ballot members. The 3 players lower in sacks than Peppers all made it first ballot, and 2 out of the 3 above him were as well (frankly Kevin Greene should have been inducted significantly sooner regardless of this concept.) However, obviously, sacks are not the only metric to go by, so let’s take a look at his career accomplishments.

Career accolades & acumen

A good metric of the legacy score for players and how much they have done in the game is created by futurefootballlegends.com, which they call their “legends score”. This combines and weights some of the most major achievements a player can get, such as pro bowl/all-pro selections, all-decade selections, the various MVP types (MVP, SB MVP), and various other accolades. While this is not a perfect system, as you can never really define someone’s legacy solely off a few achievements, it gives us an idea of how he stacks up against previous players. Peppers received a 54 in this grading system, which is similar to Joe Thomas (58), Charles Woodson (51), Luke Kuechly (50), and many other greats. Now, again, this is not perfect, as Drew Brees has a 37, which shows this cannot be the sole argument on to base his career on. This is mainly just to show how successful he was in his career, and how he was able to bring together some phenomenal seasons over the years.

In terms of his actual achievements, he has had:

  • NFL DROY
  • 3 first-team all-pro selections & 3 second-team all-pro selections
  • 9 pro bowl selections
  • NFL 2000s & 2010s all-decade team selections
  • Tied for most different quarterbacks sacked with Bruce Smith (77)
  • Sacks against 30 of 32 NFL teams
  • 2nd all-time in forced fumbles (51), 2nd all-time in blocked kicks (13), 6th most games played defensively ever (266 of 272).
  • Inducted into North Carolina sports HOF, and nominated for 2022 college football HOF (see below)
  • On top of that, had 715 tackles, 21 fumble recoveries, 11 interceptions, 6 total touchdowns, and 240 games started.

Overall, I would say with all of this combined on top of him being one of them, if not the best player in his HOF class, he should see a first-ballot induction. As rare and prestigious as they are, and as hard as it is to accomplish such a feat, Peppers had an absolutely amazing career, and should most definitely be considered for this achievement.

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