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What does Jerome Bettis' Election to the Hall of Fame Mean for Edgerrin James' Chances?

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Jerome Bettis was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. What does that mean for former Colts' running back Edgerrin James' chances of one day being enshrined in Canton?

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This past Saturday, the newest class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was announced.  Among them was former Colts general manager Bill Polian, though he was the only Colt elected this year.  Without a doubt, however, other Colts will be going into the Hall of Fame in the coming years, including wide receiver Marvin Harrison and most likely Tony Dungy - and then, five years after Peyton Manning retires, he'll go into the Hall as well.  So the Hall of Fame will begin to see a number of Colts inducted, and one of the most interesting names is running back Edgerrin James.  What are his chances at making the Hall of Fame?  This year was his first season in which he was eligible, and he made it to the final 26 semi-finalists.  Will he get in at some point?

Let's begin by looking at the running back who just got inducted in the Hall of Fame, Jerome Bettis.  It was a bit of a wait for Bettis to get in, but he is a part of the Class of 2015.  Let's first compare Bettis to Edgerrin James in their careers:

Games Rushes Yards YPA TD Yards/Game TD/Game Rec. Rec. Yds. Rec. TD Total Yards Total TD 1st Team All-Pro 2nd Team All-Pro Pro Bowls
Edgerrin James 148 3,028 12,246 4.0 80 82.7 0.54 433 3,364 11 15,610 91 1 2 4
Jerome Bettis 192 3,479 13,662 3.9 91 71.2 0.47 200 1,449 3 15,111 94 2 1 6

The two backs actually compare quite favorably.  The one area in which James is clearly better is when looking at the per game stats, but over their whole careers then the stats become pretty favorable, with Bettis having the edge in rushing and James having the edge in receiving.  Their resumes are similar enough that I think Bettis' induction into the Hall of Fame is an encouraging sign to Edge's eventual chances of getting in, though he'll likely have to wait a bit as well.

Furthermore, let's compare Edge to the 30 modern era running backs currently in the Hall of Fame.  Here, we look at the comparison between Edge and the average stats of the 30 modern era backs in the Hall of Fame.

Games Attempts Yards YPA TD Rec. Rec. Yds. Rec. TD Total Yds. Total TD Yds/Game TDs/Game
HOF Backs (Average) 147.8 2,146.60 9,386.20 4.4 71.3 289.3 2,808.40 15.1 12,194.60 86.4 82.5 0.58
Edgerrin James 148 3,028 12,246 4 80 433 3,364 11 15,610 91 106 0.61

As you can see, in only two of the categories is Edge below the Hall of Fame average - in rushing yards per attempt and in receiving touchdowns.  Notice, however, that both of those numbers are better than Bettis' total in those areas.

James ranks 12th on the all-time rushing yards list in NFL history, and with Bettis now a Hall of Famer (he's 6th on the list), that means that just two players on the top fourteen of the NFL's career rushing list are not Hall of Famers - Edge, who's 12th, and LaDainian Tomlinson, who's 5th and is not yet eligible.  In other words, Edge is currently the greatest running back who is eligible but not yet in the Hall of Fame.  That will change in two years when Tomlinson becomes eligible, but for now, Edge is number one on the list of running backs eligible but not yet in the Hall.

What does all of this mean?  The election of Jerome Bettis this season gives more confidence to the opinion that Edgerrin James will one day be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he could be left waiting for a little bit.  Ultimately, however, it's likely that Edge will be in Canton one day.