2023 NFL Hall of Fame: Breaking down Joe Thomas, Darrelle Revis and Patrick Willis' cases

Sept 11, 2011; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) celebrates his interception during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at the MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Cowboys 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

  • HOF finalists: The Pro Football Hall of Fame released its list of modern-era finalists for the 2023, and PFF has the data to parse the candidates.
  • Joe Thomas deserves to get in on first ballot: The former Cleveland Browns All-Pro set the gold standard for offensive tackle play during his career and deserves to get into the Hall of Fame immediately.
  • “Revis Island's” new address should be in Canton: After shutting down the NFL's best receivers over half a decade, Revis should be an easy to pick to make the Hall of Fame this year
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the modern-era finalists for the 2023 class, and PFF has now been around long enough that multiple players from the list have had their entire careers captured in PFF data.

Therefore, without further ado, let's see how those players stack up.

OT Joe Thomas

Thomas set the gold standard for pass protection during the PFF era. He never had a PFF pass-blocking grade below 81.7 over a single season and finished his career with six-straight seasons above 90.0 despite a laundry list of quarterbacks that didn’t make his job any easier.

The 92.9 overall grade he posted in 2007 ranks top three in offensive tackle single-season PFF grade — alongside Jonathan Ogden and Trent Williams.

Thomas allowed more sacks than some other offensive tackles, but he never blocked for a quarterback who had an above-average pocket presence or got rid of the ball quick enough to help his offensive line. 

Thomas' record of 10,363 consecutive snaps from the moment he started in Week 1 of his rookie season until he was forced out of the lineup with an injury in his final season a decade late is one of his most enduring legacies, as he displayed an absurd level of durability at the highest level of the game.

Simply put, Thomas was the benchmark all other tackles judged themselves against for a decade.

CB Darrelle Revis

Much like Thomas, Revis was the gold standard for his position for the majority of his career. His 2009 performance is still, by some margin, the greatest display of coverage we have seen by a cornerback over a full year.

That season, he was targeted 127 times and allowed just 48 receptions (37.8%) despite tracking elite, No. 1 receivers all across the field. He allowed a 29.1 passer rating that year, which is more than 10 points lower than if opposing quarterbacks had just thrown the ball at the dirt 127 times instead of testing him.

During the five-year stretch when Revis was at the peak of his powers, he was left isolated on “Revis Island” — receiving no help whatsoever from the rest of a New York Jets defense that was able to roll coverage and bodies away from his area because it knew that he could eliminate the best receivers in the game. Over that time, he allowed just 43.5% of passes thrown to his man to be caught and less than 0.8 yards per coverage snap — an elite number in any season.

He remained among the elite players at his position in very different schemes in Tampa Bay and New England before his decline began during his second stint with the Jets.

Revis is the closest thing the game has seen to a true shutdown corner in the last decade and a half of play.

LB Patrick Willis

The San Francisco 49ers went on a remarkable run of inside linebacker prowess for much of the last decade, but Willis represented the high point. His career was relatively short, but in his first seven NFL seasons, he ranked either first or second in overall PFF grade every year, leading the league in four of those seven seasons.

Willis was good at everything, showing elite playmaking skills in coverage, dominating would-be blockers in the run game and snuffing out plays for defensive stops all across the field. He racked up 422 defensive stops in those first seven years, averaging 60 per season — a figure that would have put him third last year, even with a 17-game schedule.

In a defense that saw him line up alongside other elite linebackers such as Takeo Spikes and NaVorro Bowman, Willis was always the defense's best player and unquestionable tone-setter. It’s rare that a player has a career as short as Willis but was still undeniably Hall of Famer caliber, yet Willis perfectly embodies that reality.


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