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2011 NFL Hall Of Fame Inductees: Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk Headline Class

Deion Sanders was officially announced as a member of the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class Saturday night on NFL Network. He joins Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter as newest members in Canton, Ohio. The induction ceremony will take place in August.

Sanders was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons fifth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft and played five seasons in the Georgia Dome before moving on to San Francisco, Dallas, Washington and finally Baltimore. Though Sanders played only five of 13 NFL seasons in Atlanta, he scored 10 touchdowns and forced 31 turnovers as a member of the Falcons. Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time First-Team All-Pro. You can check out his career stats here.

One prerequisite I think is important for induction into the Hall of Fame is the player must have been the best at his position at least once in his career. I'm not fond of guys who compile stats over a long career and are never considered the best at their position. Though Sanders is a no-brainer, let's back it up with some research.

Since deciding who the best player at a position can be arguable, we'll use the Approximate Value (AV) ratings from Pro-Football-Reference. Using those rankings, Sanders was the best cornerback in the NFL twice; once in 1996 and again in 1998 as a member of the Cowboys.

Furthermore, he finished in the top four among corners in nine of his 14 seasons. His best season as a Falcon was 1993 when he intercepted a career-high seven passes. Sanders retired after the 2000 season but returned to play two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004 and 2005. Among cornerbacks from 1989 to 2000, only Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler Rod Woodson had a better AV than Sanders did.

For Chris Doleman, who spent two seasons with the Falcons, the third time wasn't the charm. He's been a finalist three times now but has not received enough votes to earn induction. Doleman was an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro and he arrived in Atlanta the year after Sanders departed for the 49ers. His best season as a Falcons player was in 1995 when he had nine sacks and 51 tackles.

Similar to Sanders, Doleman was among the top six defensive ends in nine of his 15 seasons and was the best DE in 1992 (making him eligible in my book). From 1987 to 1999, Doleman was the third-best defensive end in the league behind only Hall of Fame members Reggie White and Bruce Smith.

For more on this year's other finalists and inductees, visit the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame StoryStream at SB Nation's NFL hub.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.