Sports Reference Blog

Introducing the PFR HOF Monitor

Posted by Alex Bonilla on December 19, 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. 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, Super Bowls/titles, 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. This reflects the reputation boost afforded to players who led the league in short careers like Gale Sayers and Terrell Davis. For players not yet inducted, small bonuses are also added for semi-finalist 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 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. For the full methodology, check out our PFR HOF Monitor explainer page here.

Similar to JAWS, a score of 100 is around the average modern-era HOF inductee for each position. All eligible players with a score over 120 got into the Hall of Fame fairly quickly, save for a few exceptions such as Willie Wood. A score of 150 would be a first ballot lock (sole exception of Alan Page who had to wait a year).

A score of 80 or above means they're a good candidate to eventually get in, or they’re the highest-profile borderline candidates. The absolute lowest score for HOF inductees would be 40, although most of these lower scoring Hall of Famers are courtesy of senior committee selections.

To get a sense of what absolute HOF locks look like in this system, here's a look at the highest HOFm scores:

Player Pos HOFm
Jerry Rice WR 311.81
Peyton Manning QB 258.00
Reggie White DE 238.23
Tom Brady QB 225.94
Lawrence Taylor OLB 215.68
Walter Payton RB 214.91
Bruce Smith DE 211.35
Ray Lewis ILB 197.85
Tony Gonzalez TE 196.33
Jim Brown RB 190.29

As for the Centennial Class of 2020, here's how the HOF Monitor judged the modern-era semifinalists on the ballot, with this year's inductees marked with an asterisk:

Player Pos HOFm
Alan Faneca G 141.93
Steve Hutchinson* G 118.53
Zach Thomas ILB 112.20
Reggie Wayne WR 107.01
Torry Holt WR 104.27
Isaac Bruce* WR 99.81
Edgerrin James* RB 99.58
Richard Seymour DE 96.65
Troy Polamalu* DB 95.73
Patrick Willis ILB 89.60
Leroy Butler DB 89.28
Steve Atwater* DB 85.13
Tony Boselli T 84.83
Ronde Barber DB 83.58
Hines Ward WR 72.90
John Lynch DB 71.30
Bryant Young DT 65.43
Ricky Watters RB 64.77
Darren Woodson DB 60.53
Sam Mills ILB 57.33
Simeon Rice DE 53.35
Clay Matthews OLB 52.30
Fred Taylor RB 52.13
Carl Banks OLB 51.50
Steve Tasker WR/ST 14.88

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.

24 Responses to “Introducing the PFR HOF Monitor”

  1. Ryan Krajewski Says:

    The numbers for Troy Polamalu and LeRoy Butler don't match those on their pages - Polamalu is listed at 96.23 here and 121.23 on his page, and Butler is listed at 88.78 here and 113.78 on his page. For those two players, what's listed here is 25 points lower than their actual numbers.

  2. Patrick Says:

    This is a great monitor to improve the determination of a player's greatness and help with Hall of Fame voting. Could you provide an example or two of the calculation of a player's Hall of Fame progress? That would help figure out the greatest player(s) on each team as well instead of just overall. Thank you.

  3. Andrew Says:

    One tweak that should be done is not taking into account Super Bowl wins if the player was a backup at the time. For instance, Mark Brunell and Drew Bledsoe were not the starting QB when they won their respective Super Bowl rings. Thus the value of both is inflated.

  4. mikeroyne Says:

    this is awesome. you folks do such magnificent work

  5. Tyrone Says:

    Great addition to the site. I'm curious about the Punter's formula. Let's be honest, it doesn't really matter much for punters anyway, but there's not a lot of variance in the scores after Lechler, Guy, and Landetta. The one outlier I notice is Darren Bennett. He's ranked 4th, but just doesn't seem to have any of the numbers of the guys below him.

  6. Drew Says:

    I dont understand this, i see joe namath with an 80, above guys like kelly and akiman. Joe was terriable, a career 50% passer with 50 more pics than TD's. I get it was a different era, but even the other HOF QB's from that time, bradshaw, starr, tark and rodger all were much better passers from a stats standpoint. How is his number so high with stats so bad? any modern QB with those numbers would be outa the league.

  7. Michael Says:

    I have to ask, How in any Matrix would Peyton be higher than Brady??? It would give the novice fan not knowing Peyton was better or stronger case for HOF candidate...That alone Outrageous! Conference titles, Division titles, SB appearances, SB Wins, Overall Reg season Wins, Most Postseason Wins by a Landslide, Winning % Reg & Postseason, Head to Head competition, Degree of difficulty with FAR LESS talented WR core, The list is endless, One could easily make a case for Brady being #1 in both decades If separated! They would have to combine Montana & Peytons Postseason Postseason accomplishments to come closer to Brady. Love the site for many reasons, Sorry, Have to dissent on how the calculations are derived

  8. Parker Says:

    What Michael said! How can Manning possibly be ahead of Brady?? Show me the math!

  9. Sven Says:

    Very cool you've done this. Interesting stuff.

    However, some of the numbers are inaccurate. For example, I was looking up where Marshawn Lynch ranked and saw that his career numbers were incorrect (He's listed with 9676 rushing yards when he really has 10413). Just eyeballing it there were a few others with incorrect career stats listed (Eric Dickerson and Earl Campbell, for example).

  10. Joe Mahoney Says:

    Jimbo Covert's selection makes no sense. I'm waiting for anyone to give me a justification. His HoFM is 63. He was only selection AP1 2x and PB 2x. He was only a starter 7 years and he was never the best player at his position in any year when he played.

  11. Troy Murdock Says:

    Have you considered doing something similar for coaches?

  12. Alex Says:

    This seems to be updated currently but there simply isn't any way Peyton Manning would get a higher grade than Brady unless you're putting too much weight on MVP awards. Of which Peyton has 5 to Brady's 3. However Brady has more All-Decade selections, with 2-1, 5 additional Super Bowl appearances and 4 additional titles. I don't mean to pick on Peyton but it seems an impossibility from a Hall of Fame perspective, although you could also have a probability counter where it maxes out at 100%. I'll throw in All-Pro selections which Peyton does have 7 first teams to 3 and 3 second teams to 2. But Brady has passed his career totals and Pro Bowl selections are tied at 14.

  13. John Says:

    Peyton is just 7 points higher then Tom people. When I was reading some of the comments I was thinking they must have a 20+ point difference. No just 7. Now is that to say I agree with Tom being 2nd to Peyton? No. Peyton did start playing in the late  90’s so this maybe giving his early numbers a little more weight then the early numbers of Tom. Plus whatever AP1 is Peyton has 7 to Toms 3

  14. Robert W Says:

    This is incredibly innaccurate and unfair to players of previous eras whose stats could never match up with modern day players because things like sacks and TFL were not being recorded.  Namely, Tommy Nobis of the Atlanta Falcons had a surefire HoF career (led one of the greatest defenses of all time in the early 70s in terms of points allowed, but just happened to be paired with a top 3 candidate for worst offense ever).  Nobis is listed as 50 points under average HOF ILB on your system here.... I’d invite anyone to take a closer look at Nobis’ stats and tell me this metric isnt HEAVILY weighted toward the modern era 

  15. Tyler M Says:

    Peyton over Brady is simple, Michael: Most of what you listed were TEAM accomplishments. His receivers were almost exactly the same level as what Brady had. And Gronk and Moss were at a higher level than all but Marvin Harrison. Pats had a much better offensive line most years. The degree of difficulty due to his atrocious defenses favors Manning. His coach also was MUCH worse, as I believe Brady would've been just above average without Belichick. Counting stats dont always lead to superiority, as Brees doesn't compare to either. Also, the league changed because of him, and he has the greatest throwing season of all time(2014). Also, look at comebacks and GW drives. Manning is the greatest. And it's not particularly close. Shame he was injured so greatly in 2011.

  16. Joe Blow Says:

    Agree, Tyler M. Was always curious how the patriots receivers like Patten and branch and welker and edelman and the lot got put behind Brandon stokley and Anthony Gonzalez and Austin collier. Manning made them better. Brady did win bowls but he was never a giant in stats til moss. And then they get gronk and become offensively current to the passing revolution. Brady didnt ever win the bowls himself. Hell he could've lost them all and should have lost to arlanta and seattle. But keep drinking the koolaid folks. Forget how average he was before moss? Forget vinatieri kickingnlong fgs?

  17. Linda Says:

    Who won more super bowls? Brady any day. Manning was a hack who couldnt beat Carolina Panthers without defense.

  18. Steve Vercelli Says:

    Ken Anderson not in? 4 TIME NFL PASSING CHAMP? Highest AV of ANY player not in the HOF of those currently eligible. 4 more league passing titles than Joe Namath (who had exactly “ZERO’) and one more than Johnny Unitas, who played most of his peak career in a 14-16-team league.

    Not a Super Bowl champ, but neither are Marino, Moon, Fouts, or Y.A. Tittle, who didn’t even win a league championship in a 14-team league.

    Also has a higher lifetime Passer Rating than either Moon OR John Elway, just to mention two.

    Pure politics. The only Bengal enshrined is Anthony Munoz, who was, in this Bengal fan’s opinion, overrated.

    Anderson, Ken Riley, Lemar Parrish and perhaps James Brooks (if Floyd Little is in, why not Brooks?) should all be in the HOF. 

    But Cincinnati is just considered fly-over country, I suppose....

  19. Tyler M Says:

    I agree, Steve. Anderson should be in already. The narrative by announcers and writers carries much weight, and when they dont like you, it means less accolades. Winning is the team goal, yes, but it should not be included in discussing hall of fame credentials on sub-par teams. One man cannot win a championship. Barkley, Marino, etc., always fall behind the likes of Bird, magic, aikman, Brady, Montana, and others who played for outstanding coaches on supremely talented teams. Brady without Belichick is likely less than Brees. Marino on the 49ers and they win all those that the niners actually did.

  20. TRB3 Says:

    Brady vs Manning is just like Russell vs Chamberlain... Was Russell a better player than Chamberlain just because he had 11 rings to Wilt's 2? No, he wasn't. Chamberlain was of course a great individual talent and superior to Russell in every way on the court. Russell just happened to play on better teams with a better coach.

    Their are a few quarterbacks who were much better individual talents and better players than Brady. He's been solid for sure but is definitely not the best QB I've ever seen. I'd take Marino, Elway and Manning over him any day as far as individual talent. Put those three with Belichick on the same teams Brady had at his disposal and they'd be even more successful than Tom's been as they were all better skilled/talented. Brady is similar to another all-time great winner, Joe Montana. Was on very good teams and was still a very good QB but was overrated due to just how good the rosters were of the teams he was on.

  21. Tyler M Says:

    TRB3, I agree completely. At least there are some of us out there not listening to the opinions of others and shoving them down our throats. As far as winning, it is the goal of team sports. Brady is the all-time winner. Objectively, as a fan and spectator since of football since1990, I cannot say I would put him in the top 8 quarterbacks of all time. 9th or 10th feels like his absolute ceiling, in terms of ability. We wouldn't have this conversation if Vinatieri had missed a super bowl kick or Atlanta had scored again in 2017.

  22. Philip Rivers: From Chargers to Free Agent - NonStop Sports Nation Says:

    […] Famer, even if Rivers had a more consistent career. Between the two QB’s, Rivers has the higher Hall of Fame monitor number. Pro Football Reference ranks Rivers as 92.48, just slightly below the 103.46 HOF QB […]

  23. Josh C Says:

    I can't believe how low Jim Kelly is ranked. He was better than Aikman and Elway.

  24. Matt m Says:

    Every QB has a team around him
    Good or bad..and every year they play football..is manning a better passer...maybe.. did it help him being in a dome like breeze nearly his whole career?
    I am going to say yes...did it also help him to have pass happy coaches..oh hell yeah! Because that was their system!! From the 3 yard line..the colts were throwing...they used what they believed was their best option to win ...while the worlds greatest coach was way more balanced...and aside from an at the time cast off attitude guy moss came along..his plan was balance..and cheap receivers who were average at best..manning always had big time recieving cores...its how they were built...
    Brady wins every comparison because he played outside...and wasnt in a legit passing system...and he was still neck and neck with a guy who was inside AND was totally a pass first system..
    Let alone NINE trips to the SB six titles...and the ONLY...ONLY quarterback to ever go 16-0 in a season...showing..that when he had the tools...like peyton ALWAYS had...he could crush anyone and everyone...