When people think about the early 2000 era of the Indianapolis Colts, the first name that probably comes to mind is Peyton Manning. Perhaps some might remember the wide receivers he threw to, like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. However, one name who was pivotal to that high-powered offense was running back Edgerrin James. Nicknamed “The Edge,” he was what gave that offense balance during that time. Now, he is a finalist for the 2019 Hall of Fame. He certainly has the credentials to get in.
The Case for Edgerrin James for the Hall of Fame
Came into the League Strong
James was a first-round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999. He was drafted to complement the Colts first round-pick the year before: Peyton Manning. Many predicted that Indianapolis would take a running back in the draft after they traded Marshall Faulk to the St. Louis Rams days before the draft.
However, most predicted that it would be Ricky Williams chosen by the team. Williams was one of the most productive backs in NCAA history, but the Colts felt that he would be a better fit for their offense. James was an excellent pass catcher, and the team was going to be throwing the ball a lot as Manning matured. It ended up working out for Colts, as Williams career did not exactly go as planned.
James rewarded the Colts faith in him. He compiled the second-most yards from scrimmage as a rookie with 2,139, and also scored 17 total touchdowns. This is still the second-best rookie season ever. Saquon Barkley came close to passing him, but was still over 100 yards short, gaining 2,028. Still, Barkley and James are right behind Eric Dickerson and they are the only three players to gain more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage as rookies.
A Storied Career
While it is tough to top a year like that, James did just that in his sophomore season. In the year 2000, James racked up 1,709 rushing yards and added another 594 receiving yards. This was good for over 2,300 yards from scrimmage. At 22 years old, James is still the youngest player to ever go over that mark. He also increased his touchdown total to 18. His 2001 season was cut short due to injury, but when he came back in 2002, he went six straight seasons with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
Though he never had numbers like his sophomore season, James had two straight seasons with over 1,500 yards rushing in 2004 and 2005. In ’04, he went over 2,000 yards from scrimmage once again. By the time it was all said and done, James totaled 12,246 rushing yards and 15,610 yards from scrimmage. He also scored 91 touchdowns. James was voted All-Pro his rookie season and made four Pro Bowls throughout his career. These are undoubtedly Hall of Fame numbers
Stacks Up with the Best
James fits right in with the greats. He is 13th all-time in rushing yards, nestled right in-between Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen. The only two players with more total rushing yards than him that are not in the Hall of Fame are Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore, and that is only because they were still NFL starters in 2018. Others like Franco Harris and Thurman Thomas have fewer rushing yards than James and are in the Hall of Fame. Then, looking at yards from scrimmage, James is ranked 15th. This puts him ahead of running backs like Eric Dickerson.
Last Word on Edgerrin James for the Hall of Fame
James will always be most known for his first seven years with the Indianapolis Colts. However, it will be the year James left Indy that more people remember the Colts for. Indianapolis decided not to bring back James after the 2005 season, and he signed with the Arizona Cardinals. That same year, the Colts won the Super Bowl. Perhaps some Hall of Fame voters will look at James’ lack of a Super Bowl title as a negative when deciding whether to let him in or not. However, his rookie and sophomore seasons, followed by consistent performances should overshadow that. With another stacked ballot, James might be the odd man out this year. But, he should eventually make it to the promised land in Canton.