The Pro Football Hall of Fame came under fire when this year’s class was announced and wide receiver Terrell Owens was not among those inducted. While some have cited Owens’ off-field issues that led to several teams cutting ties with him, the move should not be a huge surprise because of how the voters value wide receivers.
Of the players who have retired in the last 25 years, 66 have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Based on the garden-variety starting formations of most NFL teams in recent years, including one kicker and one punter (see note in chart below), if players were randomly selected, we would expect 1 out of every 24 players to be a quarterback, 1 out of every 24 to be a running back, 3 out of every 24 to be wide receivers, and so on.
Of course, the players aren’t chosen randomly, and not surprisingly, quarterbacks and running backs are chosen quite often despite representing just two of the 24 starting positions. But unlike those skill positions, receivers are not chosen more often, with eight players elected, one fewer than running backs, despite typically having three times as many receivers on the field at any given time.
Interestingly, receivers don’t appear to be as underrepresented in the Hall of Fame as defensive backs. With four of the 24 starters in a game being corner backs and safeties — that’s being conservative since teams use five these days more often than not — we would expect 11 defensive backs elected, and yet only five defensive backs from the last 25 years have been so honored.
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