INDIANAPOLIS —It's when, not if.
When evaluating Edgerrin James' Hall of Fame credentials, that seems to be consensus among league experts and voters.
James, the greatest running back in Indianapolis Colts history, on Tuesday was named a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the second time in three years, and will know if he has been selected for enshrinement for the Class of 2018 Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Some experts believe that James might need to wait another year or two before getting a realistic shot at getting his bust in Canton, however — but not because he isn't worthy.
"I don't think he gets in this year," NFL Network's Sam Wyche said Tuesday night. "I do think because there's not a ton of running backs coming down the pike that Edge will probably get in within the next two to three years, but I think this year it's going to be a little tough because there's probably some other positions a little deeper.
"This is a Hall of Fame running back, though, guys," Wyche continued. "I mean, this is someone with the rushes and the receptions. He's someone that will be in Canton one day."
Statistically one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, James played 11 NFL seasons, including his first seven with the Indianapolis Colts. In his career, James was named to four Pro Bowls and rushed for 12,246 yards, which ranks 11th on the all-time list. His 15,610 total yards from scrimmage ranks 13th all-time among running backs, and is more than Hall of Fame backs Eric Dickerson, Jerome Bettis and Jim Brown.
James, the 1999 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Colts, turned in seven seasons with 1,000-plus rushing yards, earned 1,000 yards from scrimmage in eight of his first nine seasons and is one of only three backs since the merger, joining Dickerson and Earl Campbell, to have led the league in rushing yards in each of his first two NFL seasons.
NFL Network's Michael Silver said he recently spoke with fellow analyst Reggie Wayne, and the former great Colts receiver — who is also a future Hall of Famer — explained just why James, a fellow University of Miami product, was so good for so long.
"Reggie said, 'Egderrin taught me about angles. He never took square hits; he always knew how to fall forward, avoid contact. And he's the one who taught me about using angles,'" Silver said. "And he said that stretch play that Peyton (Manning) and Edge perfected, and the play fake it set up, he said I had the easiest job in the world: I would run 18-yard comebacks and be wide open all the time. My lowest reception yards-wise was 18, and then I could maybe make someone miss.
"So Edgerrin, to me, the two-way threat, for a guy who didn't have blazing, breakaway speed necessarily, his averages in yards per reception and rush were tremendous over a long, long span," Silver continued.
NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector, is also on the "when, not if" train for James' Hall of Fame candidacy. He said he's not sure James will be "penalized" due to the fact two other running backs were recently inducted, but also noted the strong list of finalists this year.
"I think you just have to look at the other 14 finalists and stack those how you think they rank," Maiocco said. "But when you look at the top-16 guys on the NFL all-time leading rusher list, Edgerrin James is the only one who's eligible for the Hall of Fame who hasn't been selected yet — he's No. 13 overall on (the) all-time leading rusher (list). So I think at some point he will get in; I'm not sure it will be this year, though."