For the 4th time, Saints great Morten Andersen is a Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist, and in 2017, he’s closer to getting in than he’s ever been, but he’s far from a sure thing.

Getting into the Hall of Fame is only partially about whether or not you’re deserving. Morten Andersen is definitely deserving. It’s also about the competition.

Only five former players on the list can get in. Here’s how I’d rank all 15 of the finalists his year, and why.

The Sure Things

1) Terrell Owens / Wide Receiver

His numbers are undeniable. Owens has the second most receiving yards in NFL history, however Hall of Fame voters decided last year, that like Colts great Marvin Harrison, he was NOT a first ballot Hall of Famer. Owens personality certainly didn’t help. Harrison got in on his second ballot, I’m pretty certain Owens will too.

2) Alan Faneca / Guard

How LSU’s Alan Faneca was NOT a first ballot Hall of Famer – I don’t know. Faneca was a 1st Team All-Pro an incredible SIX times, the most of any player in this year’s class. He made nine Pro Bowls in 13 terrific seasons. He’s in the conversation as the greatest guard of his era. This is his second ballot, and like Owens, I’m pretty sure he’s in.

The Probables

3) Kurt Warner / Quarterback

Warner was a late bloomer, he didn’t become a starting quarterback in the NFL until he was 28, so he doesn’t have the career numbers of most Hall of Fame passers. BUT, Kurt Warner is a two time Associated Press NFL MVP. For two seasons, Warner was the single best player in the league. As the list below shows, only nine players in NFL history have won multiple AP MVP Awards. ALL the others eligible so far, except Warner, were first ballot Hall of Famers.

Players with Multiple AP NFL MVP Awards

5 Peyton Manning / Not eligible yet

3 Brett Favre / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

3 Jim Brown / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

3 Johnny Unitas / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

2 Aaron Rodgers / Not eligible yet

2 Tom Brady / Not eligible yet

2 Steve Young / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

2 Joe Montana / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

2 Kurt Warner / Not in Hall of Fame

4) John Lynch / Safety

This is Lynch’s fifth time on the ballot, fourth time as a finalist (exactly like Morten Andersen). He’s waited his turn, and my guess is – it’s his turn. He’s a nine time Pro Bowler, two time First Team All-Pro. He’s in the Ring of Honor of two different teams – the Buccaneers and the Broncos, and he won the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award in 2006. He’s not an Ed Reed caliber safety, not the best of his generation, but definitely good enough to get into the Hall of Fame on his fifth try.

On the Fence

5) LaDainian Tomlinson / Running Back

Morten Andersen’s chances to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame MIGHT depend on whether or not LaDainian Tomlinson is a first ballot Hall of Famer. And I believe that’s 50/50.

Tomlinson IS a Hall of Famer. No question. No debate. But should he get in on the first ballot? That’s an honor reserved for the truly elite. Brett Favre was a first ballot Hall of Famer last year.

Leading Rushers in NFL History

1) Emmitt Smith / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

2) Walter Payton / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

3) Barry Sanders / 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

4) Curtis Martin / 2nd Ballot Hall of Famer

5) LaDainian Tomlinson / ???

The question – is LaDainian Tomlinson more like Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders OR more like Curtis Martin? I would NOT vote him in on the first ballot. I’d wait a year, but again, I think that could go either way. If Tomlinson DOESN’T get in, I believe it opens the door for Morten Andersen.

6) Morten Andersen / Kicker

The Great Dane is the leading scorer in NFL history, with the most field goals in NFL history, but Morten Andersen’s most telling stat – he was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 80’s AND the 90’s. That means, over a 20 year period, he was considered the best in the league at his position.

Right now, there are 303 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that includes just ONE kicker – Chiefs great Jan Stenerud, and just ONE punter – Raiders great Ray Guy. Clearly, to get in as a kicker, you have to be better at your job than you would at any other position. But clearly, Morten Andersen was. Jan Stenerud changed kicking, and absolutely deserved to get in. Morten Andersen took the baton and advanced it. I think, all things considered, he’s the best kicker in NFL history. No doubt, for 20 years, he was the best in the game at what he did, and this SHOULD BE the year he gets in. I’d give it, maybe a 40 % chance of happening. But it should.

7) Joe Jacoby / Tackle

There’s growing momentum for Joe Jacoby’s case. He’s probably the best known of the Redskin Hogs, BUT, only twice was he a first team All-Pro, and he only made 4 Pro Bowls. I can’t help but to compare – would I vote for Joe Jacoby or Morten Andersen if I had one vote remaining? Voters put fellow Hog Russ Grimm in the Hall of Fame in 2010, so who do I vote for.. maybe the best kicker in NFL history or the 2nd most deserving Hog? I’d vote Andersen.

My guess is, Jacoby will get into the Hall eventually, but it’ll be as a senior finalist.

8) Kevin Mawae / Center

This is the third time on the ballot for the former LSU Tiger, and it’s his first time as a finalist. I believe Kevin Mawae will eventually get in – he’s a three time first team All-Pro, an 8-time Pro Bowler. But just as John Lynch has sort of climbed the ladder among Hall of Fame candidates, I believe Mawae will have to do the same. I think he eventually gets in, but I think that’s a couple years away.

Borderline Contenders

9) Terrell Davis / Running Back

Terrell Davis was a great player for a really short time. He only played 78 career games, that’s less than five full seasons. Still, he was a three time first team All-Pro, an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP. There does seem to be growing momentum for his cause in his 11th year of eligibility, but I don’t see it happening now.

10)Ty Law / Cornerback

Ty Law is on the borderline. He played big in big games, with a Super Bowl Pick-6 and 3 interceptions in one AFC Championship game. The last cornerback to get into the Hall of Fame was New Orleans native Aeneas Williams in 2014. Williams was a first team All-Pro three times. Law did it twice. Williams went to 8 Pro Bowls, Law went to 5. In this competition, Law is not in the top five of the 2017 class, and I’m not sure is that class will ever come.

Not Yet

11) Brian Dawkins / Safety

Dawkins WILL be a Hall of Famer, but I don’t believe he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a four time first team All-Pro, so you can make a case, but I think he gets in next year.

12) Jason Taylor / Defensive End

Like Brian Dawkins, he’s definitely a Hall of Famer, but not on the first ballot. He’s 7th in NFL history in sacks.

Not Deserving

13) Tony Boselli / Tackle

Boselli was a truly great player, but he just didn’t do it long enough to be a Hall of Famer. He only played 91 NFL games, that’s less than six seasons. Especially for an offensive lineman, that’s just not enough.

14) Isaac Bruce / Wide Receiver

Isaac Bruce did it for a long time, but only made four Pro Bowls, and was NEVER a first team All-Pro.

15) Don Coryell / Coach

Coryell was a great offensive coach, but was 3-6 in his career in the playoffs, and never got a team to the Super Bowl.