There is a feeling among AFL fans that the American Football League players are consistently overlooked for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In truth there are many players, the bulk of whose careers were spent in the AFL, that deserve serious consideration, if not outright induction. In an effort to spark some discussion regarding their hall of fame worthiness, I will occasionally compare AFL players to their NFL (and Hall of Fame) counterparts. The short biographies on the NFL players have been taken directly from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.
Today’s comparison is between Lionel Taylor of the Denver Broncos/Houston Oilers and two HoF receivers, Raymond Berry and Bob Hayes.
Lionel Thomas Taylor – Drafted in 1959 by Chicago Bears, spent rookie season as a linebacker in the NFL…Went to the Broncos in 1960, and caught 92 passes for 1,235 yards and 12 touchdowns…Led AFL in receptions in four-of-eight seasons…Retired after nine seasons with 567 receptions for 7,195 yards and 45 touchdowns…Four-time AFL All-Star, three-time Broncos MVP, twice All-AFL…First professional receiver to log more than 100 receptions in a season (1961)… AFL All-Time Second Team member
Raymond Emmett Berry – Formed exceptional pass-catch team with Johnny Unitas. . .Caught then-record 631 passes for 9,275 yards, 68 touchdowns. . .All-NFL in 1958, 1959, 1960. . .Elected to six Pro Bowl games. . .Set NFL title game mark with 12 catches for 178 yards in 1958 overtime game. . .Colts’ 20th-round future choice in 1954 .
Robert Lee “Bob” Hayes – Selected as a future pick by Cowboys, seventh round, 1964 NFL Draft. . .Also drafted as future choice by Denver (AFL). . .Won a pair of gold medals in the 1964 Olympic Games earning him the title “World’s Fastest Human”. . .Four times was named first- or second-team All-NFL. . .Three times led the Cowboys in receptions. . . Career stats include 7,414 receiving yards and 71 TDs.
I believe that Lionel Taylor’s hall of fame chances are lowered by two issues, neither of which we his fault. First of all, he played in the early days of the AFL, and HoF voters seem to discount accomplishments during these seasons based on a belief that AFL defenses were inferior competition. Secondly, he played on Broncos teams that consistently found themselves near the bottom of the league standings. For many years Taylor was the Broncos go-to man, and he performed admirably, despite having to catch balls from a quarterback carousel. He has nearly 200 more career receptions than Hayes, though he played two fewer seasons. Imagine Taylor over 13 seasons with Unitas as his quarterback, and whose numbers would be better, his or Raymond Berry’s? Thoughts?