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Patrick Willis and Justin Smith among first-time eligible players nominated for 2020 HOF

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If Willis isn’t a first-ballot lock......

New York Jets v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Former San Francisco 49ers superstars Patrick Willis and Justin Smith have been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class for 2020. This marks the first year the two are eligible. Thursday morning, the Hall of Fame released the list of 122 modern-era nominees that are eligible. The definition for “modern-era” is a player must have played anywhere from five to 25 years ago. As you know, Willis and Smith hung up their cleats in 2014.

I’d argue that Fooch should have dropped “argue” in that tweet. There’s nothing to argue. When you dominate your position from the minute you step onto the field, to essentially the time you call it quits, you’re a Hall of Famer. Willis wasn’t good. He wasn’t great. He was the best. He is the definition of what the Hall of Fame should be.

Willis made the Pro Bowl, back when it mattered, seven times. He was a five-time All-Pro and won the AP defensive rookie of the year in 2007. Every year Willis played double-digit games; he made the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboy played his final seven seasons in the NFL with the 49ers. Smith made five Pro Bowls and was on one All-Pro team. Smith was dominant in ways that numbers could never tell the entire story. His stats are far from bad, and they don’t paint the entire picture. Smith is a classic case of disruption being a better way to judge a player than his box score. I’d love to see a “sacks created” stat throughout his career.

49ers general manager John Lynch is a nominee once again after being a finalist for the past six years. Other former 49ers for the 2020 class includes Ricky Watters, Bryant Young, Merton Hanks, Jeff Garcia, Brent Jones, and Tim McDonald.

This list of nominees will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November. Then a little after the regular season ends the list will be cut to 15 finalists. Willis should be a shoe-in.