J.J. Watt would deserve a spot in Canton even if he retired today.
Gale Sayers played just seven years in the NFL and was only a productive player for five of those years, but so dynamic was Sayers for that short span that after his career he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And today no one questions Sayers' worthiness for the Hall.
Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt has played just five years in the NFL and over that time has established himself as one of the most dominating defensive players ever.
But Watt is battling a back problem and will miss the rest of the 2016 season after surgery. Consider this hypothetical: What if J.J. Watt decided to call it quits right now?
I could easily see Watt retiring right now to pursue other interests. Watt has established himself as a star outside of football and should see plenty of opportunities opening up. Maybe Watt would like to preserve his health and take on some new challenges?
Here's what I think about Watt: I think he's a Hall of Famer even if he retires today.
After just five years, Watt has already proven he is one of the greats. If he never plays another game, he should still go to Canton. He would be the Gale Sayers of defensive linemen.
Just go to the stats if you don't think Watt has already made a good case for himself to be inducted. Watt was solid his rookie season, posting 5.5 sacks, four passes defensed and two fumble returns. But it was in his second year that he really took off, ringing up 20.5 sacks and adding 16 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two fumble returns.
In years three, four and five Watt went for 10.5, 20.5 and 17.5 sacks. Incredible production considering all the attention Watt garners. During that time Watt became a darling of analytics people, dominating the year-end PFF rankings and placing high on the NFL Network top 100 list.
You want individual accolades? Watt has been named first-team All-Pro four times, and scored three AP defensive player of the year awards. That is a stretch of dominance the likes of which we haven't seen in a very long time if ever.
If stats don't do it for you, just go back and watch the tape. Nobody wreaks havoc on the defensive line like J.J. Watt. He can destroy an offensive gameplan all by himself.
To me Watt has already filled up his Hall of Fame resume. Would he actually consider retiring early and segueing into a new line-of-work? It all depends on his health.
If Watt keeps playing, there is no reason to think he won't continue laying waste to offenses all over the league. A couple more years like the one's he's had and those Hall of Fame credentials will be undeniable. To me Watt's list of accomplishments is already at a level where his place in the Hall should be assured.
If Gale Sayers is Hall-worthy for such a short period of super-excellence, then so is J.J. Watt.