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2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists include one former Bengals player

Terrell Owens makes the final 15, while Willie Anderson and Chad Johnson fall short.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 15 finalists for the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class have been announced. Among the finalists is one former Bengals’ player, wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Here is the full list of 15 players who are still being considered for induction into this year’s class in Canton, Ohio.

  1. LaDainian Tomlinson, running back
  2. Brian Dawkins, safety
  3. Jason Taylor, defensive end
  4. Morten Andersen, kicker
  5. Kurt Warner, quarterback
  6. Don Coryell, coach
  7. Tony Boselli, offensive tackle
  8. Isaac Bruce, wide receiver
  9. Terrell Davis, running back
  10. Alan Faneca, guard
  11. Joe Jacoby, offensive tackle
  12. Ty Law, cornerback
  13. John Lynch, safety
  14. Kevin Mawae, center/guard
  15. Terrell Owens, wide receiver

In addition to this group, former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley was announced as a senior finalist by the Seniors Committee last August, which reviews the qualifications of players whose careers ended more than 25 years ago. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue are also contributor finalist, decided by the Hall of Fame's Contributor Committee, which considers those who made outstanding contributions to professional football other than players and coaches.

After being selected in the third round out of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Owens had a phenomenal NFL career, collecting 1,078 receptions and racking up 15,934 receiving yards and 153 receiving touchdowns. Owens’ 15,934 career receiving yards are the second most in NFL history, behind only Jerry Rice. His 153 receiving touchdowns are third all-time, behind Jerry Rice and Randy Moss, while his 1,078 total receptions places him as the eight highest.

Owens spent the last of his 15 NFL seasons as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. While the Bengals had a dismal 4-12 season in what was both Carson Palmer’s and Chad Johnson’s last year with the team, Owens had a great season, leading the team with 72 receptions, 983 yards, and nine touchdowns.

This is the second year that Owens has been eligible for the Hall of Fame, and is the second year that he has been included among the list of 15 finalists. Last year Marvin Harrison was inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Owens was not, despite Harrison accumulating inferior numbers while playing on better teams, with a better quarterback. The popular consensus is that voters denied Owens’ entry last year because of his perceived attitude in the locker room and off-the-field. Many expect Owens to eventually be enshrined into the Hall of Fame - could 2017 be that year?

Bengals v Chargers Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Two other former Bengals who were nominees for the 2017 class include wide receiver Chad Johnson and offensive tackle Willie Anderson. This year was the first year of eligibility for Johnson, who was nominated, but did not advance to become one of the semi-finalists. Among all-time NFL career leaders, Johnson ranks 34th in receiving yards (11,059), 35th in receptions (766), and 46th in receiving touchdowns (67).

Anderson was first nominated in 2013 and has never advanced past the nominee stage. Anderson was under-appreciated for much of his career, but finally earned three First Team All-Pro awards, and four Pro Bowl selections before ending his career. Evidence of that under appreciation continues as Joe Jacoby, who also has four Pro Bowl selections but only two First Team All-Pro awards, advanced to the list of finalists while Anderson did not advance past the ranks of the nominees. Of course, playing in three Super Bowls didn’t hurt Jacoby’s name recognition among voters.

Johnson will likely join Kenny Anderson as a player who should be in the Hall of Fame, but falls short. It’s possible the Seniors Committee could still consider Kenny Anderson in future years. Both Johnson and Anderson have career statistical totals that are very good, but not elite enough to force the issue, and both will be held back by a lack of postseason success. Anderson also deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but failing to advance to the semi-final round in any of the last five years is not a good sign. It’s a safe bet that playing for the abysmal “decade of the 90’s” Bengals, plus playing the less glamorous right tackle position are holding him back.

The process for determining the players who enter the Hall of Fame begins when roughly 100 “modern era” players are nominated each year (there were 94 players and coaches nominated for the 2017 class and 108 last year). From this group, about 25 of them become semi-finalists (26 this year and 22 last year). In early January the number is cut down to 15 finalists, who are among the players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ultimately four to eight players are enshrined each year. Last year it was the high end, with eight.