Are Former Ravens WRs Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith Sr. Potential First-Ballot HOFers?

In the midst of the madness that was Super Bowl weekend, the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame voting took place. Eight former stars were elected this year, and while none of them had Baltimore connections, two former Ravens receivers could make it next year.

The two receivers Baltimoreans are most interested in when looking forward to next year’s Hall of Fame class are first-time eligibles Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. Other receivers who will be considered next year include holdovers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne, so Talk of Fame Network’s Clark Judge was pessimistic about the chances Boldin and Smith have to be inducted in 2022.

“I do not definitely know that these guys are Hall of Famers. Could they be? Yeah, sure,” Judge said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 8. “But they are definitely not first ballot.”

What may be working against them is simply the recent influx of talented receivers throughout the past two decades. Boldin and Smith both have stellar resumes, with Boldin being a three-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion and Smith being a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro pick. Not to mention, they both are inside the top 15 in career receiving yards; Smith is No. 8 at 14,731 yards and Boldin is No. 14 at 13,779 yards.

Still, there are only five modern-era spots available per year. Boldin and Smith will be up against incredibly talented players for those spots — and their numbers will be judged in context of the modern NFL. Wayne (No. 10 in receiving yards at 14,345) and Holt (No. 16 at 13,382) were finalists this year but didn’t get in.

“I just looked at the workup of the top receivers of all time,” Judge said. “All but one of them played in the 2000s and the only one who didn’t was No. [22], Art Monk.”

This year’s class consists of modern-era selections Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch and Alan Faneca, senior inductee Drew Pearson, former executive Bill Nunn and former coach Tom Flores. It’s an exceptionally strong class, but Judge was surprised by certain elements of the voting process.

“Calvin Johnson making it first ballot surprised me,” Judge said. “We’ve become so infatuated with the first-ballot process that it’s penalizing others that are waiting in line. Couple of names that come to mind [are] Leroy Butler and Tony Boselli.”

This year marked Boselli’s 15th year of eligibility on the modern-era ballot. The argument against the left tackle is a lack of longevity, as he only played in 91 games during his career and retired at the age of 31 due to injuries. But the same argument could’ve been used against Johnson, who retired at 30.

“Why does Calvin Johnson have to jump the queue here?” Judge asked. “He has 20 years of eligibility.”

The reason a candidate’s chances of obtaining that elusive golden jacket diminish once they move into the senior group is that only one candidate a year is selected from the group. Currently, there are 59 candidates that reside in this group, so the likelihood of escaping such a group is rather slim.

“Boselli is running out of eligibility, and the reason that is a factor is because when that happens you are immediately put over to another pile of candidates called the senior class,” Judge said. “And that group is an abyss.”

For more from Judge, listen to the full interview here:

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