<
>

Roger Craig vs. Ricky Watters

7/24/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Former 49ers and Seahawks running back Ricky Watters made NFL Network's list of the 10 best players not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The list includes only players who have been retired long enough to become eligible. Roger Craig didn't make the cut. Would you rank him ahead of Watters among all-time backs?

Watters was a terrific every-down player. He played and practiced with emotion and energy. He was exceptionally durable, at one point starting 116 consecutive games -- the longest streak for any running back who was active at the time (LaDainian Tomlinson leads current running backs with 48 consecutive regular-season starts).

Watters rushed for 10,643 yards and caught 467 passes. He ranks 14th in NFL history for yards from scrimmage. He respected the players who came before him and earned the respect of his peers. In 2000, his Seattle teammates named Watters the Steve Largent Award winner, presented to the Seattle player who best illustrates the spirit, dedication and integrity of the team.

NFL Network's list also includes Ken Anderson, Cris Carter, Bob Hayes, Alex Karras, Jerry Kramer, Jim Marshall, Ken Stabler, Steve Tasker and Derrick Thomas. Carter will almost surely enter the Hall of Fame in the near future. Hayes' supporters point to how he forced defenses to change their approach entirely to account for his speed.

I can think of a few Hall-eligible players from NFC West teams -- Craig among them -- who deserve strong consideration for enshrinement:

Seahawks: Cortez Kennedy was defensive player of the year on a 2-14 team that featured one of the worst offenses in NFL history. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl player. At his best, Kennedy could not be blocked.

Rams: Henry Ellard averaged nearly 17 yards per reception on 814 catches. He averaged 19.5 yards per catch while putting up more than 1,000 yards with Washington at age 35.

49ers: Craig topped 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. He caught more than 566 passes and topped 8,000 yards rushing. The numbers only begin to explain how he played. The high-kneed running style helped him bull over defenders.

Cardinals: Help me out here. Larry Centers caught all those passes out of the backfield. Roy Green? There has to be someone I'm missing. Perhaps on defense.