Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward was a wideout who was about as tough as they come, and now that he's retired, the talk for Ward turns to his Hall of Fame worthiness.
As we look at Wards career, a career that saw him accumulate 1,000 catches and over 12,000 yards receiving--as well as two SuperBowl MVPs--a case can be made that he definitely deserves a spot in Canton. However, the only problem with this endeavor is that cracking the 'hall' as a receiver is a tough nut these days. In five years, when Ward is eligible for the honor, he will be at the back of a line that has some other pretty notable receivers waiting for their number to be called.
Here are five of those guys that should be Hall of Fame inductees but are still waiting for their chance.
5. Sterling Sharpe, Green Bay Packers: 1988-1994
Despite playing an injury shortened career of only seven years, Sterling Sharpe was easily one of the best of his generation, if not all-time. During his brief span in the NFL, Sharpe played in five Pro Bowls, led the league in receptions three times and was selected first team All-Pro on three separate occasions.
Sharpe had his greatest season in his first year with Brett Favre in 1992. During that year, he became just the sixth player in the history of the league to lead the NFL in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. He followed it up in '93 with a career best 112 receptions.
During his seven year career, Sharpe racked up 8,134 yards receiving on 595 receptions and 65 touchdowns.
4. Gary Clark, Washington Redskins/Phoenix Cardinals, Miami Dolphins: 1985-1995
Sometimes in sports it's difficult to get the attention you deserve when you are lined up opposite of one of the greatest of all-time; and that's where Gary Clark falls in.
For nearly a decade, Clark played with Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk with the Washington Redskins. And though he benefited greatly from Monks increased attention, he deserves some of his own.
During his 11 year career, Clark topped the 1,000-yard mark 5 different times and twice averaged 19 or more yards per catch during that span. Clark was a member of two Super Bowl winning squads and caught a touchdown pass in each of those big games. While never the 'golden child' in Washington, Clark was a consistent second-best for almost ten years, a span that should eventually earn him a spot in the Hall.
During his 11 year career, Clark caught 699 passes for 10,856 yards and 65 touchdowns.
3. Andre Reed, Buffalo Bills/Washington Redskins: 1985-2000
When you talk about great receivers who aren't in the H.O.F yet, then you are bringing up Andre Reed. Reed, a standout for a Buffalo Bills team that made it to four straight SuperBowls, is the poster-child for prolonged excellence.
During his 15-year career, he was a seven time Pro Bowl selection and had four seasons where he caught over 1,000 yards. While great in the regular season, it was the postseason where Reed shined. In 19 career postseason appearances, Reed caught 85 passes for 1,229 yard and 9 touchdowns. He had 5 postseason 100-yard games, including 152 in SuperBowl XXVII
For his 15 year career, Reed had 13,198 yards receiving with 951 receptions and 87 touchdowns.
2. Henry Ellard, Los Angeles Rams/Washington Redskins/New England Patriots:1983-1998
Sometimes, as a player, it takes time for your wisdom to catch up to your talent; and that's the case of Henry Ellard. An average player for his first five seasons, Ellard took it up a notch during the rest of his career. During his final nine seasons of his 14 year career, Ellard passed the 1,000 yard mark seven times, averaging 65 catches and 1,136 yards per season.
In addition to his receiving skills, Ellard was also one of the top punt returners in the league throughout his first six seasons. He led the league in return average in 1983 and finished second the following two seasons.
For his career, Ellard had 814 receptions for 13,777 yards and 65 touchdowns.
1. Chris Carter, Philadelphia Eagles/Minnesota Dolphins/Miami Dolphins: 1987-2002
Chris Carter tops this list because he's the best receiver not in the Hall of Fame, period. Behind only the great Jerry Rice during his career, Carter was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 90's. An eight time Pro Bowl selection, Carter epitomized swagger before swagger was even a common expression.
Carter has his best stretch from 1993-2000, where he averaged 97 catches, nearly 1200 yards and 11 touchdowns while making his eight Pro Bowl appearances.
For his career, Carter has 130 touchdowns, 13,899 yards and a mesmerizing 1,101 receptions.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS