As one of the most dominant offensive weapons in the game, Antonio Gates causes defensive coordinators around the league to lose sleep at night trying to devise schemes in which to contain number 85. The five-time Pro Bowler helped put the spotlight on the tight end position and has scouts nationwide looking to find the next "Antonio Gates." Gates holds numerous records and is widely considered to be one of the best players in the NFL, but after six illustrious seasons in the books has he done enough already to be considered a Hall Of Fame player?
I posed the topic to ESPN's Bill Williamson and the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee and got some interesting responses:
"He needs to play a few more years, but he's virtually guaranteed to go in," says Kevin Acee. "He didn't redefine the position. Kellen Winslow did that 20 years earlier. But Gates' emergence did change the way the position is scouted, in a way. Look at the attempt by teams to find the next hoops-star-turned-tight-end."
"His touchdown numbers are amazing. Remember, no tight end reached 50 career touchdowns faster than Gates (92 games). Winslow (the elder) is the only TE to reach 5,000 receiving yards faster than Gates."
ESPN's AFC West blogger Bill Williamson formerly covered the Denver Broncos for the Denver Post. He's seen the type of career Shannon Sharpe had and knows that it's not easy for tight ends to earn a place in Canton.
"Shannon Sharpe proved this February that is difficult for a tight end to get into the hall of fame," Williamson said. "I, along with many others, thought Sharpe would be a slam dunk. But he will have to wait another year. Now, whenever Tony Gonzalez is eligible, he should get in without problems because his numbers are simply sick."
"I think Gates is a hall of fame-type player, considering his unique story and the impact he has had on a great offense. But he still has a ways to go. If Gates has another four to five big years, he’ll make a strong case. But Sharpe has sterling credentials and still he waits.
It’s no knock on Gates, it’s just the reality of playing that position."
There have only been 7 modern-era tight ends inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mike Ditka 1961-1972
John Mackey 1963-1972
Jackie Smith 1963-1978
Charlie Sanders 1968-1977
Dave Casper 1974-1984
Ozzie Newsome 1978-1990
Kellen Winslow 1979-1987
Outside of Placekicker, the tight end position has the lowest number of inductees currently in the Hall. Tony Gonzalez, now of the Atlanta Falcons, is generally regarded as already having a career worthy of the Hall of Fame. Shannon Sharpe has been eligible, but he hasn't garnered the necessary votes yet.
The question is, has Antonio Gates done enough already through his career to be worthy of the Hall of Fame, or does he still have more to accomplish in the game? As this season gets underway, can we reference Gates as a "future Hall of Famer" the way we do with players like Peyton Manning and Ladainian Tomlinson, or is it still too early to bestow such an accolade? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter, please vote and give your take in the comments section below...
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