Every year, there are several deserving finalists whose names are not selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year was no different, as several finalists with Hall of Fame resumes will have to wait at least one more year before being honored in Canton, Ohio.
This year's class presented unique challenges. There were several first-year eligible finalists who were locks for induction. As expected, Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson were selected in their first year of eligibility. Joining them as a first-ballot inductee is Calvin Johnson, whose decision to retire at age 30 was not held against him by the voters.
While there is no official criteria, voters tend to not induct too many players at the same position in the same class. This was exemplified in this year's induction class. Johnson and senior finalist Drew Pearson were two of the four finalists that played receiver. Alan Faneca was one of two offensive linemen who were finalists. John Lynch and Woodson were two of the fourth finalists that played defensive back. While their inductions likely contributed to other finalists not being included in this year's class, it doesn't explain why none of the three finalists that played linebacker were not selected.
Among the 10 finalists whose names were not called during Saturday's NFL Honors, here are the five who were most deserving of induction.
1. OL Tony Boselli (1995-2001)
A member of the NFL's All-1990s Team, Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro. His presence helped the Jaguars reach two AFC title games during the franchise's first five years of existence. Boselli would already be in Canton if not for an injury that prematurely ended his career after fewer than 100 games.
2. LB Zach Thomas (1996-2008)
Thomas was a tacking machine who racked up 1,734 tackles during his 13-year career. A key member of Miami's talented mid-90s defense, Thomas was a seven-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL's All-2000s Team. The 2017 induction of former teammate Jason Taylor could be a reason why Thomas continues to wait for his own induction.
3. LB Clay Matthews (1978-1996)
A four-time Pro Bowler, Matthews recorded a whopping 1,595 tackles during his career. Matthews, who is also credited with 69.5 career sacks, played a key role on a Browns team that reached three AFC title games over a four-year span. Sacks not becoming an individual statistic until 1982 undoubtedly hurts Matthews' cause. Playing in an era that included fellow outside linebackers Lawrence Taylor, Andre Tippett and Charles Haley (among others) may have also hurt his cause. The fact that Matthews' Browns fell short in each of their AFC title games against the Broncos may also be a contributor.
4. WR Reggie Wayne (2001-2014)
Unfairly cast as the Robin to Marvin Harrison's Batman, Wayne carved out his own niche in Indianapolis. A six-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLI champion, Wayne led the NFL in receiving in 2007. The eighth all-time leading receiver at the time of his retirement, Wayne was the No. 1 receiver on the Colts' 2009 AFC championship team. Wayne's association with Harrison is likely one of the main reasons why he will have to wait at least another year to receive a bronze bust and a gold jacket.
5. LB Sam Mills (1986-1997)
A five-time Pro Bowler, Mills led the Saints to four playoff appearances from 1987-92. A member of the Panthers' inaugural team, Mills anchored a Carolina defense that advanced to the NFC title game in just its second year of existence. While his role in helping turn New Orleans and Carolina into playoff teams is celebrated by both franchises, the fact that Mills did not play in a larger market could be why his career is often overlooked as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned.