Our experts compare 2007 Hall of Fame inductees Bruce Matthews, Thurman Thomas and Michael Irvin to the all-time greats at their respective positions.
Where does Bruce Matthews rank all time among offensive linemen?
Mark Schlereth: He's No. 1 in terms of being the most versatile lineman in history. He played all five positions and played them all extremely well. It's a testament to his greatness that he went from right guard to left guard, which is like telling a right-handed person to start writing with his left hand. I've seen that move destroy people's careers, but Matthews made the move seem effortless.
Matthews had great feet, fantastic hands and the best technique I've ever seen. I won't lie to you, I used to steal from him all the time. Luckily for me he finished his career playing left guard, so whenever I was going to face a tough opponent I went and got tape of Matthews playing the guy. I would try to emulate Matthews' success and formulate a game plan to defeat the guy.
Joe Theismann: Watching Matthews play was often like watching a man play with children. That's how dominant he was on the field and it wasn't because he towered over opposing players, but because he was so perfect in his technique. I don't think people ever really give offensive linemen the credit they deserve for the job they do. As a former quarterback I know firsthand how much easier they can make a game and how much harder. Matthews consistently made the game easier for his quarterback and the rest of his offense.
Where does Thurman Thomas rank all time among running backs?
Schlereth: He's not mentioned with the all-time greats like Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown and I'm not totally sure that is fair. Thomas may not have had the great overall numbers of those guys, but he was a terror for defensive coordinators to have to deal with on Sunday. He was the precursor to today's multifaceted running back because he was a danger to catch the ball no matter where he lined up. He is responsible for the evolution of the position.
Theismann: Mark is correct. Thurman has never truly gotten the credit he deserves for the great career he had. The Buffalo Bills would never have been in those Super Bowls if not for Thomas. He was the glue for that team and was the best player on most of those teams despite the presence of guys like Bruce Smith, Andre Reed and Jim Kelly. He was the first truly great multidimensional running back the league had seen and is the first of many to make it to Canton.
Where does Michael Irvin rank all time among wide receivers?
Schlereth: This is a tough question because it's so tough to rank receivers throughout different eras. Today's game is so much different for receivers now than it was even when Irvin played and that wasn't that long ago. He was one of the first big, physical receivers who just beat opposing cornerbacks down. He could've been called for offensive pass interference on every route because he was the king of the push-off. In press coverage he would try to annihilate a guy off the line of scrimmage. That said, Irvin was an extremely hard worker and was the emotional leader of those Dallas Cowboys teams.
Theismann: Irvin is truly one of the greats. If the Cowboys needed a big play in the passing game, then you knew Troy Aikman was going straight to him. Irvin always found a way to make the play even though he would have two or more guys draped all over him. He earned the moniker "The Playmaker."