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The Pro Football Hall of Fame still has a wide receiver problem

The 2023 Hall of Fame class is still missing some big-name receivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced on Thursday night, and it’s a wholly deserving group. Joe Thomas and Darrelle Revis enter on the first ballots, as most expected, while on the other end of the spectrum Zach Thomas will finally enter Canton after 10 years of eligibility. It was a great night to honor some of the NFL’s greatest players, but also underscored the continuing problem the Hall of Fame has with its waiting wide receivers.

Wide receivers being enshrined in Canton has always been a point of contention. It took far too long for Terrell Owens to get his bust, and the same is true of Cris Carter. Now we have history repeating with four wholly-deserving receivers who haven’t have their names called and will enter their third year of eligibility or more in 2024.

Steve Smith

  • 8th all-time in receiving yards (14,731)
  • 2x All-Pro
  • 5x Pro Bowl

Smith’s resume speaks for itself. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald (who is a lock to enter on his first ballot), there is no receiver with more yards who isn’t in Carton. Thursday night marked his second year of eligibility, and he’s still on the outside looking in.

Reggie Wayne

  • 10th all-time in receiving yards (14,345)
  • 1x All-Pro
  • 6x Pro Bowl

Another receiver in the yardage Top 10, Wayne is also entering his third ballot in 2024. Wayne’s individual resume might be a hair behind Smith’s, but he also has a Super Bowl to his name — which Smith never won.

Andre Johnson

  • 11th all-time in receiving yards (14,185)
  • 2x All-Pro
  • 7x Pro Bowl

Johnson is barely behind Smith and Wayne in yardage, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dominant receiver in the 2000s — especially considering the quarterbacks he played with. There is absolutely no doubt he also belongs in Canton.

Torry Holt

  • 17th all-time in receiving yards (13,382)
  • 1x All-Pro
  • 7x Pro Bowl

Holt is an interesting case. Had the Rams not had Isaac Bruce paired alongside him then Holt’s numbers would have been in the stratosphere. He was still the No. 1 receiver for the bulk of his career in St. Louis — but having a second target like Bruce definitely took some of his personal numbers away. With Bruce already in Canton (and justified as 5th all-time in receiving yards) it’s definitely time to enshrine Holt too.

Next year is a chance to clear this backlog

If we’re being entirely honest, next year’s class is a little light when it comes to first ballot candidates.

Julius Peppers will be a lock. Antonio Gates is likely a first ballot Hall of Fame player as well, based on his career receiving touchdowns which is 7th in NFL history.

So, the question becomes: How many receivers could or should get in — and how does that fit with the rest of the class? Would Julius Peppers AND Steve Smith both get in considering they played the bulk of there careers in Carolina? Could Smith get passed over for someone else? Should Canton allow in multiple receivers just to clear the logjam they have at the position?

We’re once again facing down more receivers deserving to get in than there are spots available in the Hall of Fame, and that won’t get any better with Larry Fitzgerald set to enter soon.