Elway is synonymous with the Denver Broncos, playing 16 years with the franchise and passing for 51,475 yards and 300 touchdowns, which is fourth all-time. His passing yards are second only to Dan Marino's total of 61,361 yards.
Sanders had 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns in 10 years with the Detroit Lions. He retired after the 1998 season and is third on the all-time list behind Emmitt Smith (17,354) and Walter Payton (16,726).
Other first-year eligible candidates joining Elway and Sanders for consideration are wide receiver Henry Ellard and cornerback Albert Lewis.
Among other nominees were former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson, former Giants general manager George Young, and wide receiver Bob Hayes.
Voting for the Class of 2004 will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31, the day before Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston.