December 22, 2023 9:00am

Who's the next running back enshrined in Canton?

Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Eddie George...who?

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

There are four running backs among the list of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024. But it may be a while before any of them sees a bust – or any other running back sees a bust, for that matter.

In this week’s NFL Power Poll, we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters to identify the next running back to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. We provided seven options – the four runners on the 2024 ballot (Tiki Barber, Eddie George, Fred Taylor and Ricky Watters) plus backs who become eligible in 2025 (Marshawn Lynch), in 2026 (Frank Gore) and 2027 (Adrian Peterson).

The poll determined that the next running back to enter Canton won’t be until 2027 when Peterson becomes eligible. Peterson received 53 of the 176 votes cast, easily outdistancing the runnerup George with 38 votes. Then came Gore with 33 votes, Taylor with 20, Lynch with 18, Barber with eight and Watters six.

“While Frank Gore likely belongs in the Hall of Fame, I don't see him at this moment as a first-year-eligible entry,” said Hall-of-Fame voter Barry Wilner. “Adrian Peterson seems a slam dunk to go in immediately. Anyone who could win league MVP honors in this era of `worship the quarterback’ must have special credentials. I don't see any of the others mentioned having the credentials for Canton. They were very good players, yes. But, in my opinion, not at an HOF level.”

Gore ranks third all-time in rushing yards with 16,000. Peterson sits fifth (14,918), Taylor 17th (11,695), Watters 24th (10,643), Barber 27th (10,449), George 28th (10,441) and Lynch 29th (10,413).

“Frank Gore should not be a Hall of Famer,” said Ulises Harada Carranza, a top NFL voice in Mexico. “His durability was huge but he was never a Top 5-7 running back.”

A factor in the vote, according to columnist Gene Frenette of the Florida Times Union, is the declining impact of running backs in today’s NFL.

“Getting into Hall of Fame is getting murkier for running backs, though Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson will be locks or close to it,” Frenette said. “While having only one Pro Bowl is a killer for Fred Taylor, I think momentum will reach a point where he gets to the finals one of these years. When you watch the tape, he certainly has a HOF look. But he played in era with several HOFers that made the Pro Bowl ahead of him. The running back dilemma will be interesting to watch.”

In our second question, we asked our panel to predict the outcome of the key NFL game of the weekend, perhaps the key game of the entire season – the battle between the AFC’s top-seeded team the Baltimore Ravens and the NFC’s top seed the San Francisco 49ers. Both enter the game with 11-3 records. The 49ers have the home field for the Christmas day tilt. So who wins?

The 49ers were the runaway winner, outpolling the Ravens 160-16.

“The Niners are playing the best ball in the NFL by far,” said Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers. “This could become a blowout in favor of San Francisco.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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