On Thursday night, the NFL unveiled the 2023 class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was a fairly uneventful class for Detroit Lions fans, as not even Lions legend Dwight Freeney was named to the class.
It’s now been two years since Calvin Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame and before that it was Alex Karras (2020), Dick Lebeau (2010), Charlie Sanders (2007), and Barry Sanders (2004). In other words, there haven’t been many modern-day Lions inducted into the Hall of Fame.
But if Thursday night taught us anything, it’s that today’s Lions are finally starting to garner some national attention. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, coach Dan Campbell, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and quarterback Jared Goff all received votes for awards last night, even if none of them ended up walking away with hardware.
So this begs the question:
Who will be the next Lions player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Before we dive into the Lions’ current roster, there are a few players we need to talk about—past and present—that could eventually make the team. Offensive tackle Lomas Brown may be a lost cause at this point, but he certainly deserves significant consideration as a seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion. He’s been nominated several times for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he’s never even been a semifinalist. If you count his one year in Detroit, Anquan Boldin has been a Hall of Fame semifinalist for two consecutive years now and seems like someone who will eventually get in. However, there’s a long line of wide receivers worthy of getting in right now, including Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, and Steve Smith, among many others.
UPDATE: In this category, there is also Adrian Peterson—who I completely forgot. Peterson is likely a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2026, but he only spent one year in Detroit. So if you count him, he’s the likely answer.
Then there are former Lions still playing in the NFL that will have good shots at the gold jacket. Ndamukong Suh’s terror on the league was fairly short-lasting—he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro list since 2016—but for the first six years of his career, he was arguably one of the best defensive players in football. If the Eagles win on Sunday, he’ll also have two Super Bowl rings.
Speaking of the Eagles, Darius Slay is coming off his fifth Pro Bowl nomination in the last six years and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing. He is 32 years old, though, so it may be a case of too little, too late.
Finally, there’s Matthew Stafford. I won’t dare to get into the Hall of Fame debate that we had for years while he was in Detroit, but if he can bounce back from his injured 2022 season in Los Angeles and make the Rams Super Bowl contenders again, he’s got a shot.
As for players on the Lions’ current roster, it’s far too early to anoint anyone Hall of Fame-worthy. That said, it has been a very promising start to the careers of Aidan Hutchinson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Penei Sewell. Frank Ragnow has been one of the best centers in football for several years now, but he goes wildly underappreciated across the league so it may be tough for him. If Goff continues an upward trajectory—and dare I say brings a Super Bowl to Detroit—he should get some consideration, but we’re a long way from that right now.
So to actually answer the question: I think if you count Dwight Freeney, Anquan Boldin, or Adrian Peterson, they’re probably next. I’m not sure Suh, Slay, or Stafford get there, so I will say that the next “true” Lions player to make the Hall of Fame is Penei Sewell. But now that I actually have written those words, that would mean there would be no Lions’ inductee for the next... 20-ish years. I’m just going to say that Lomas Brown gets in before then.