I want Devin Hester to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I really do. If you ask me to officially grant him entry, he's in. The problem? Nobody has asked me. I've tried. But nothing. What I do have the power to do, however, is predict which of the 15 modern-era finalists will be inducted in the Hall's Class of 2023.
As to who actually makes it in, well, we'll all find out together during NFL Honors, which takes place at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, and which will air on NBC, Peacock and NFL Network. Until then, here's my best guess at the modern-era inductees:
Cleveland Browns, 2007-2017
I ranked the 28 modern-era semi-finalists in November, and Thomas was my top guy. (Well, my top non-Devin Hester guy.) Thomas was the best player at his position for a long time. He was a six-time All-Pro. He played 10,000-plus consecutive snaps. And he was on a Browns team that endured plenty of hard luck over the course of his career. Thomas deserves this. I imagine voting for him is the easy part of the process for the voters.
New York Jets, 2007-2012, 2015-16; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2013; New England Patriots, 2014; Kansas City Chiefs, 2017
Revis is also automatic as a first-ballot finalist. Honestly, I can't imagine what the knock against Revis would be. His interception total (29) is low. But that's only because nobody wanted to throw his way. The generation who grew up playing fantasy football during his prime knows: You always hated when Revis was going up against your No. 1 wide receiver, because said receiver was going to be shut down. On top of all that, Reivs also got his Super Bowl ring as a member of the Patriots. He's in. For me, though, that's is it in terms of first-ballot guys.
Miami Dolphins, 1996-2007; Dallas Cowboys, 2008
A linebacker is getting in this year. And while I wouldn't be shocked if it was Jared Allen, who generated so many memes by riding a horse to his Vikings Ring of Honor ceremony, I'm feeling Thomas in his fourth year as a finalist. There has been this weird thing where he's been overlooked despite having been a first-team All-Pro five times. FIVE TIMES. But the Hall also does seem to induct one of these long-waiting candidates every year, and I think it's Thomas in 2023.
Again, if this was my decision, I would give the nod to Patrick Willis, who earned five All-Pro nods in eight years. But Willis will take on that role of waiting for his turn.
St. Louis Rams, 1999-2008; Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009
The voters need to break up a logjam of wide receivers. As to which receiver makes it, your guess is as good as mine. I like Holt to finally get his recognition for being part of the Greatest Show on Turf, joining his quarterback (Kurt Warner) and fellow receiver (Isaac Bruce). But you're not going to get much of an argument from me if Andre Johnson or Reggie Wayne is given the honor. (Well, maybe a little bit of an argument if Wayne gets in before Hester, because it would feel like Super Bowl XLI all over again.)
I still favor Holt here, because he led the NFL in receiving yards twice. He also led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards in 2003. I know Johnson led the NFL in receptions twice. But who was he fighting for targets on those Texans teams? Kevin Walter? Look, all of them are deserving, but I'm going with Torry for my final answer.
Chicago Bears, 2006-2013; Atlanta Falcons, 2014-15; Baltimore Ravens/Seattle Seahawks, 2016
I think Hester has a real chance; I think voters will fix their mistake in not letting him be a first-ballot guy last year. I know I'm biased, being a Bears fan who was born in the Chicago suburbs, but I think it's time to make room for the greatest return man of all time. It's weird that special teams has so little representation in the Hall of Fame, given that you hear NFL coaches say they need to win in all three phases of the game all the time.
That said, I'm nervous. I will try to keep up the positive energy, but I'm nervous.