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O'HARA: Lions who could warrant HOF consideration

There are two things that are almost guaranteed to happen when the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017 is announced Saturday night in Houston on the eve of Super Bowl LI.

First will be the uproar over who didn't get voted in. That happens every year.

Next comes the speculation on the favorites for the Class of 2018 – either from the candidates who come up short this year, or players who'll be eligible for the first time. Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher will be on the ballot next year.

Unlike last year, when guard Dick Stanfel from the Detroit Lions' championship teams of the 1950s was voted in, none of the 18 finalists for induction this year has any connection to the Lions.

What follows here is a look at seven men – ranked No. 1 through 7 -- either currently connected to the Lions through the 2016 season or retired from the franchise who could warrant Hall of Fame consideration on some level.

It's a broad spectrum of candidates that includes a former head coach and two players active in 2016, with a capsule look at their careers and a projection of where they stand as Hall of Fame candidates.

No. 1 on the list is the late Alex Karras, who after more consideration represents a change in my thinking.

Frankly, I had it all wrong on Karras. He is one of the most egregiously overlooked candidates since the history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's voting process.

Having said that, here's my list:

1. Alex Karras, defensive tackle

Career log: Drafted by the Lions in the first round out of Iowa in 1958 and played all 12 pro seasons in Detroit. He was suspended by the NFL for the 1963 season for gambling. Released before the 1971 season and retired.

Honors/accomplishments: First team All-Pro three times, four Pro Bowls, and one of five defensive linemen on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade team of the 1960s. Karras is the only one of the five who is not in the Hall of Fame. The others: Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Bob Lilly, Willie Davis.

Sack stat support: The NFL did not recognize sacks as an official statistic until 1982. However, noted football historian John Turney's research credits Karras with 105 career sacks, second-most in history among pure defensive tackles behind Hall of Famer Alan Page.

Pros for the Hall: A great player at a time when defenses and linemen dominated.

Cons: Time has forgotten Karras, who died in 2012. Also, there is some sentiment that the gambling suspension has kept him out of Canton. However, Paul Hornung of the Packers also was suspended for gambling in 1963 and eventually made the Hall of Fame.

Odds of making the Hall: Karras is No. 1 on my list of Lions with the best Hall of Fame credentials, and I admit that my opinion has changed on his stature. His accomplishments and stats point to Canton.

Under the rules the only chance for Karras is as a senior candidate, and Karras has never been one of approximately 60 senior players who have made the cut for the final vote. In other words, he's a forgotten man in a league that purports to celebrate its history.

It's an unfathomable oversight that Karras has never been given serious, legitimate, consideration for the Hall of Fame.

2. Calvin Johnson, wide receiver

Career log: Drafted by the Lions second overall in 2007 and played all nine pro seasons before announcing his retirement in March of 2016.

Honors/accomplishments: First team All-Pro three times, six Pro Bowls. Led the league once in catches (122 in 2012), twice in receiving yards (1,681 in 2011, 1,964 in 2012) and in TD catches once (12, in 2008).

Record stat: Johnson's 1,964 receiving yards in 2012 are the NFL's single-season record.

Career stats: 731 catches, 11,619 yards, 83 TD catches, 1 rushing TD.

Pros for the Hall: Johnson far exceeds Hall of Fame standards based on ability and impact. He lived up to his nickname of Megatron.

Cons: Longevity, only nine years, is a drawback. So are his career statistical rankings at the end of the 2016 season – 43rd in catches, 29th in yards, 22nd in TD catches.

Odds of making the Hall: 50-50, based on comments from Hall of Fame selectors contacted after Johnson's retirement. He passed the eye test on the field.

3. Buddy Parker, head coach

Career log: Head coach of the Lions from 1951-56, and head coach of the Steelers from 1957-64.

Honors/accomplishments: In Detroit, Parker coached the Lions to three straight NFL championship games from 1952-54, and the 1952-53 teams won the championship. He retired on the eve of the 1957 season. That team that was prepared in training camp by Parker went on to win the championship under George Wilson, an assistant under Parker who was promoted to head coach.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers never made the playoffs under Parker but they had winning records in four of his eight seasons.

Comparisons: Parker was a turnaround king in both Detroit and Pittsburgh.

In Detroit, the Lions had gone five seasons without a winning record before Parker arrived. He had one losing season in Detroit with a won-loss record of 50-24-2, including regular season and playoffs.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers had three winning seasons from their inception in 1933 through 1956, the year before Parker arrived. He had four winning seasons, three losing seasons and one season with a 6-6 record.

Pros for the Hall: Two NFL championships in Detroit.

Cons: None, really. Two championships and his comparative record with two teams outweigh anything else.

Odds of making the Hall: Slim, but his championship record should count for something.

4. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin

Career log: A Lion in 2016. Drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round in 2003 and played for three teams – Cardinals, Ravens and 49ers before coming to Detroit.

Honors/accomplishments: Three Pro Bowls, played on the 2012 Ravens team that won the Super Bowl and 2008 Cardinals team that lost to the Steelers.

Pros for the Hall: Stats at a position that defines players. After the 2016 season he ranks ninth in career receptions (1,076) and needs only 27 catches to pass fourth-place Marvin Harrison (1,102). Boldin is 23rd with 82 career TD catches – one behind Calvin Johnson – and 14th in career receiving yards (13,779).

Cons: He's considered a tough, consistent producer at a high level but never a dominant player like Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and a handful of others.

Odds to make the Hall: 50-50 or slightly less, depending on the year and who else is in the class. His stats will be hard to discount.

5. Quarterback Matthew Stafford

Career log: Drafted first overall by the Lions in 2009 and has played all eight pro seasons in Detroit.

Honors/accomplishments: On the list of most passing yards in a season, he is ninth (5,038 in 2012) and 10th (4,967, 2012). Drew Brees, with five, is the only other quarterback with more than one season in the top 10. Stafford was the Pro Bowl MVP after the 2014 season.

Pros for the Hall: Enormous stats compiled before turning 29. On the career list, Stafford already ranks 44th in yards (30,303) and 49th in touchdowns (187).

Cons: Winning. His overall won-loss record in the regular season is 51-58 and 0-3 in the playoffs. He is 48-48 since the start of his third season, when he began a streak of 96 consecutive starts after his first two seasons were shortened by injuries.

Odds for the Hall: Too early to make a call, but eventually it will depend on winning. Stafford likely can play for another 10 years, at least. If he keeps putting up yards and the Lions win playoff games and at least one Super Bowl, he'll have a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame.

Ultimately, winning is what separates quarterbacks on the pecking order, although there are exceptions. Dan Fouts and Warren Moon are Hall of Fame quarterbacks who had big stats but were not big winners.

Fouts was 86-84-1 in the regular season and 3-4 in the playoffs with more interceptions (16) than TD passes (12). Moon was 102-101 in the regular season and 3-7 in the playoffs with 17 TD passes and 14 interceptions. Neither got to a Super Bowl, but both are in Canton.

6. Offensive tackle Lomas Brown

Career log: Drafted sixth overall by the Lions in 1985 out of Florida and played the first 11 of his 18 pro seasons in Detroit.  Brown also played for the Cardinals, Browns, Giants and Bucs. He was a starter on the 1999 Giants team that lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl and a backup on the 2002 Bucs team that beat Oakland to win the Super Bowl.

Honors/accomplishments: Seven Pro Bowls, first-team All-Pro once.

Stat to consider: Brown started 251 career games – tied with Mike Kenn and Charles Woodson for ninth most in history by a position player. Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews is the only offensive lineman with more career starts (293).

Pros for the Hall: Longevity, seven Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl appearances with one championship and the quintessential pass protector at left tackle from the first game of his rookie season.

Cons: It's hard for offensive linemen to make the Hall of Fame because they aren't graded on statistics. Although Brown has been nominated for the Hall, he needs more support than he's gotten in the past.

Odds of making the Hall: Brown's best chance is as a senior.

7. Kicker Jason Hanson

Career log: Drafted by the Lions in 1992 out of Washington State with the last pick in the second round and played all 21 seasons in Detroit.

Honors/accomplishments: Two Pro Bowls, second-team All-Pro once. Fourth in history in career field goals made (495) and points (2,150), fifth in games played (327) and nine times in the top 10 in field-goal percentage for a season.

Pros for the Hall: Longevity, ranking high in stats categories.

Cons for the Hall: Punter Ray Guy and kicker Jan Stenerud are the only pure kicking specialists in the Hall.

Odds to make the Hall: Unlikely.

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