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, 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:

Player Pos HOFm
Jerry Rice WR 275.78
Peyton Manning QB 245.79
Reggie White DE 223.63
Lawrence Taylor OLB 210.43
Tom Brady QB 208.73
Bruce Smith DE 196.35
Ray Lewis ILB 195.43
Walter Payton RB 184.39
Jim Brown RB 179.63
Rod Woodson DB 176.28

As for the current modern era semifinalists for the Class of 2020, here's a look at how they stack up:

Alan Faneca G 141.43
Steve Hutchinson G 121.03
Zach Thomas ILB 111.70
Edgerrin James RB 103.83
Troy Polamalu DB 96.23
Richard Seymour DE 96.15
Reggie Wayne WR 94.73
Torry Holt WR 94.64
Steve Atwater DB 90.63
Isaac Bruce WR 90.14
Patrick Willis ILB 89.60
LeRoy Butler DB 88.78
Tony Boselli T 84.33
Ronde Barber DB 83.58
John Lynch DB 70.80
Hines Ward WR 66.69
Bryant Young DT 64.93
Ricky Watters RB 64.52
Darren Woodson DB 60.53
Sam Mills ILB 56.83
Simeon Rice DE 53.35
Clay Matthews OLB 52.3
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.

11 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?

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