19th December 2019
Baseball-Reference tracks various Hall of Fame predictor statistics such as Bill James' Hall of Fame Monitor and Jay Jaffe's WAR Score System. Basketball Reference also has a Hall of Fame Probability formula that we display on player pages and gives people a brief glance at where players stand based on their statistical case.
With the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2020 being debated this winter, we figured it was time to work up a Hall of Fame predicting formula for the NFL, and so we have devised a new HOF Monitor metric that we are deploying for Pro Football Reference beginning today! Here's a link to the quarterback HOF Monitor page, which also includes links to the other positions. Links to these tables will also appear under the Leaderboards and Awards section of player pages.
The base formula uses weighted Approximate Value (which is 100% of the player's peak year, 95% of their second-best year, 90% of their third-best, and so on) as a starting point. Bonuses are added for Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade selections, MVP awards, Defensive Player of the Year awards, first-team AP All-Pro selections, championships and Pro Bowls, in descending weights. In addition, bonuses are added if a player has earned first-team All-Pro in over 33% of their seasons, which helps out short but excellent careers like Gale Sayers and Terrell Davis. For players not yet inducted, small bonuses are also added for semifinalist and finalist appearances on previous HOF ballots, since that indicates that they've already been seriously considered.
On top of the base formula, there are statistical bonuses given depending on the position. For example, running backs are given extra credit for any rushing yards over the 10,000 mark and any rushing touchdowns over 75, or defensive ends getting extra credit for sacks over 125. For quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends there are different thresholds depending on the era they played in so as to narrow the gap between the depressed passing stats before 1980 and the explosion after that.
Similar to JAWS, if a player's HOF Monitor is 120 or higher, there's a good chance they'll be first ballot inductees. A score of 100 is around the average modern-era HOF inductee for each position. A score of 80 or above means they're a good candidate to eventually get in, or are the highest-profile borderline candidates. The lowest score players already inducted in the Hall of Fame will get will be around 50 (sorry, Curley Culp).
To get a sense of what absolute HOF locks look like in this system, here's a look at the highest HOFm scores:
As for the current modern era semifinalists for the Class of 2020, here's a look at how they stack up:
We want to stress that this is especially meant to judge a player's chances of getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not necessarily for "who is the best middle linebacker" debates. Many analysts agree that championships won reveal little to nothing about a player's individual skill, but it's certainly a factor that's taken into consideration by Hall of Fame voters. With that caveat out of the way, we're eager to hear feedback on the formula. Particularly, if you're interested in testing out your own tweaks, feel free to reach out to us via our feedback form and we can share the player data used to test out this system.