Vikings HOF candidates now and in the future

Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith celebrates after a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints last season. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hutchinson, Griffen, Smith top prospects for Hall

Retired

Guard Steve Hutchinson was a finalist this year and spent six of his 12 years in Minnesota. Three of Hutchinson's five first-team All-Pro seasons were with the Vikings. Running back Roger Craig has been a semifinalist but is known for his time with San Francisco. He only spent two seasons with Minnesota. However, the most overdue member of the Vikings' organization is defensive lineman Jim Marshall.

A member of the Purple People Eaters, Marshall is overshadowed by linemates Carl Eller and Alan Page, who are already enshrined in Canton. Marshall deserves his own recognition. Forget his most infamous play - Marshall recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards the wrong way into his own end zone in 1964 -- the defensive end was every bit the ferocious complement to Eller, Page and tackle Gary Larsen. Though sacks didn't become an official stat until 1982, the Vikings have Marshall listed with 127 sacks, which is tied for second in team history. He played in a then-record 282 straight games and was a member of four Super Bowl teams.

Still playing

Recent Vikings' teams have certainly included plenty of big-time names, but the current group is still making its mark on the league. Defensive end Everson Griffen has been named to the Pro Bowl three times and begins the 2018 season 21st among active players with 61 sacks in his eight seasons. But Griffen is already 30 and didn't become a full-time starter until his fifth NFL season. Instead, look to safety Harrison Smith, who has been a starter for each of his six seasons.

Smith was a first-team All-Pro for the first time last season and looks to only be getting better. His impact can't be determined just by numbers, but he has 17 career interceptions, four of which he's returned for touchdowns. Smith is a tackling machine who is equally adept at coming up to stop the run as he is in coverage. Smith has become one of the top safeties in the league and could be Hall of Fame bound with a few more standout seasons.

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