Oct 29, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Former Panther defensive end Julius Peppers awaits his induction into the Panthers Ring of Honor during the first quarter between the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Peppers, Antonio Gates headline Hall of Fame finalists

Defensive end Julius Peppers and tight end Antonio Gates — among the most prolific players at their respective positions — highlight the list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Modern Era Class of 2024, released Wednesday.

Peppers and Gates are the only players to make the list in their first year of eligibility. Nine players who made the final list in 2023 are back on the list in ’24, while four other players are finalists for the first time though not in their first year of eligibility.

Peppers, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first-team All-Pro, finished his 17-year career with 159.5 sacks, fifth all time and the most by any player not yet in the Hall. Taken second overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2002 draft, Peppers was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after compiling 12 sacks to go with one interception and five forced fumbles in 12 games.

After 10 seasons with the Panthers, Peppers played four years with the Chicago Bears and then finished his career by playing three seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

On the other end of the draft spectrum, Gates went undrafted after not playing football in college. Instead, he starred in basketball in his final two years at Kent State.

Combining his height (6-foot-4) with his rebounding skills, Gates first made a name for himself in the NFL as a jump-ball specialist in the end zone. He really broke through in his second season, scoring 13 touchdowns — then a single-season record for tight ends. He finished his career with 116 career TDs, seventh all time and the most ever by a tight end.

Gates made eight Pro Bowls and was a three-time first-team All-Pro in his 16 seasons. He finished with 955 receptions for 11,841 yards, spending his entire career with the Chargers (14 in San Diego and the final two in Los Angeles).

The four other players making the list for the first time are cornerback Eric Allen (in his 18th year of eligibility), safety Rodney Harrison (11th year), running back Fred Taylor (ninth) and offensive lineman Jahri Evans (second).

Punt/kick return specialist Devin Hester, who holds the single-season record for total kick-return touchdowns (six) and the career mark for punts returned for a score (14) is among those back on the list from 2023. Hester, who also made history with the first opening kickoff returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history (Super Bowl XLI), is a finalist for the third time.

Wide receivers Reggie Wayne (whose Indianapolis Colts beat Hester’s Chicago Bears in that Super Bowl) and Torry Holt (a member of the St. Louis Rams’ famed “Greatest Show on Turf”) are both finalists for the fifth time, the most of any of this year’s finalists.

The Hall of Fame selection committee will elect the Modern Era Class of 2024 the week leading up to Super Bowl LVIII, with the class announced on Feb. 8.

Up to five members can be elected to the modern class (a minimum of 80 percent of the votes is required for possible election). Finalists from the Seniors and Coach/Contributor categories may also be elected.

Modern Era Class of 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalists

(Name, position, years, teams)

Eric Allen, cornerback — 1988-1994 Philadelphia Eagles, 1995-97 New Orleans Saints, 1998-2001 Oakland Raiders

Jared Allen, defensive end — 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers

Willie Anderson, offensive tackle — 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens

Jahri Evans, guard — 2006-2016 New Orleans Saints, 2017 Green Bay Packers

Dwight Freeney, defensive end/outside linebacker — 2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14 San Diego Chargers, 2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017 Detroit Lions

Antonio Gates, tight end — 2003-2018 San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers

Rodney Harrison, safety — 1994-2002 San Diego Chargers, 2003-08 New England Patriots

Devin Hester, punt returner/kick returner/wide receiver — 2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens

Torry Holt, wide receiver — 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars

Andre Johnson, wide receiver — 2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans

Julius Peppers, defensive end — 2002-09, 2017-18 Carolina Panthers, 2010-13 Chicago Bears, 2014-16 Green Bay Packers

Fred Taylor, running back — 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-2010 New England Patriots

Reggie Wayne, wide receiver — 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts

Patrick Willis, linebacker — 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers

Darren Woodson, safety — 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys

–Field Level Media

Aug 4, 2023; Canton, OH, USA; A general overall view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame nominees include Julius Peppers, Antonio Gates

Nine first-time eligible players, including former All-Pros Antonio Gates and Julius Peppers, are among the 173 modern-era nominees announced Tuesday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Other first-time nominees for the Class of 2024 are wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson, running back Jamaal Charles, offensive linemen T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Max Unger, and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata.

Gates, a tight end, and Peppers, a defensive end, were considered among the best at their positions earlier in the 2000s. Both three-time All-Pro selections, Peppers and Gates were named to the Hall of Fame’s All-2000s team. Peppers also got the nod on the All-2010s team.

The list of modern-era nominees is made up of 94 offensive players, 62 defensive players and 17 special teams players. The 173 nominees will be pared to 25 semifinalists in November and eventually further whittled before the 50-member Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee votes on the Class of 2024 before Super Bowl LVIII.

The committee also will consider seniors finalists Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell, and Buddy Parker from the coach/contributor category. Parker coached three NFL teams from 1949-63.

Finalists from the 2023 class nominated again for 2024 are Jared Allen, Willie Anderson, Dwight Freeney, Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Patrick Willis and Darren Woodson.

To be elected to the Hall of Fame, a nominee must be named on 80 percent of ballots.

–Field Level Media

Week 12 Fantasy Disappointments

The fantasy football season is filled with disappointment, but poor performances from star players are becoming more costly as we get closer to the end of the year. One bad game from a normally reliable player may be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy owners the most in Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season.
Brandin Cooks
Brandin Cooks had the perfect opportunity to succeed when he got to play a struggling Rams defense at home in New Orleans. While Drew Brees and the Saints had a great offensive game, Cooks was nowhere to be found. The top receiver on the Saints failed to get one catch in a game that saw the team score 49 points. Nearly every offensive player on the New Orleans Saints helped their fantasy owners in Week 12 expect Brandin Cooks. The star wide receiver, who is considered one of the fastest players in the NFL,  recently expressed his frustrations over his role in the offense. These comments usually forces the coaching staff to get a player more involved, so it would not be surprising to see Cooks have a few huge games before the end of the season.
Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates was given a difficult matchup when he had to go up against the Houston Texans in Week 12, but fantasy football players still expected a decent performance from the great tight end. Gates was coming off his two best games of the season, and he had scored a touchdown in three straight games before Week 12. Just like Brandin Cooks, Antonio Gates went the entire game without getting a pass thrown in his direction. Backup tight end Hunter Henry’s touchdown late in the game just added more salt in the wound for Gates’ fantasy owners. This game may cause some people to abandon Antonio Gates, but the aging tight end has a great schedule coming up. If he returns to his normal role in the offense, then Gates should find a way to score a few more touchdowns this season.
Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson was coming off three straight great games after finally fully healing from his ankle injury, but he produced his worst game of the season in Week 12. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense had Wilson under constant pressure, so the great quarterback never had much time to find an open receiver. Since Wilson was forced to only throw short passes, he finished the game with 151 yards. Nearly all of Wilson’s fantasy points in Week 12 came from his 80 rushing yards. The Seattle Seahawks have a very favorable schedule the rest of the season, so Wilson should be a top-tier fantasy quarterback in Week 13 and beyond.