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NFL's All-Time Greatest Left Tackles, By the Numbers

There are some terrific left tackles in the NFL. And they better be great, having the responsibility of protecting the most valuable asset on each team’s roster. The league seemingly always has a handful of elite left tackles.

Every generation has a group, and unlike other positions, it almost never goes out of style. When a team needs to get most of its yards on the ground, it helps to have Walter Jones leading the way for Shaun Alexander to run for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns for the 2005 Seattle Seahawks.

Similarly, Jonathan Ogden made it easier for Jamal Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens in their halcyon days. You can get to a Super Bowl with Matt Hasselbeck or Trent Dilfer at quarterback when you have a left tackle like Jones or Ogden.

Current Left Tackle Stalwarts

Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers

When a team has one of these truly great left tackles — think Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers — it can play a quarterback (Brock Purdy), who took up only 0.38 percent of the team’s salary cap. Purdy was the team’s seventh-round pick ( No. 262 overall), but San Francisco won all seven games he started until he was hurt early in the NFC Championship Game.

Williams started 17 games last season (including the postseason). He had 997 offensive snaps and spent 526 of those snaps pass blocking and another 471 snaps run blocking. He allowed just one sack and 19 pressures all of last season. The 49ers were well above league average in yards rushing, average yards per rush and rushing touchdowns.

Offensive tackles have always been important, but they are even more so now. More often than not, the left tackle blocks the best athlete on the opposing defense.

Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tristan Wirfs is entering his fourth season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has made two Pro Bowls at right tackle, and the team exercised his fifth-year option. The Buccaneers will likely move him to left tackle. There’s a history of great left tackles starting as right tackles (Jason Peters was a right tackle for much of his first three seasons with Buffalo).

Besides, who has had more pressure than Wirfs in his first three seasons? He started 52 of Tom Brady’s last 57 games, including Super Bowl LV. In those 52 games, Wirfs allowed only eight sacks. I don’t care if the quarterback gets rid of the ball in record time. It’s impressive to allow so few sacks on a team that couldn’t run the ball.

Top LTs of All-Time by Number

I’ve always been fascinated and in awe of the great left tackles. So, I thought it might be fun to sort the great left tackles by uniform number.

People say I’m stuck in the 1970s, which certainly applies to the left tackles and music I love. But I also appreciate some great music from the mid-60s, and so it is with left tackles.

While most of the great left tackles have uniform numbers in the 70s; there are others: let's not forget Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman (N0. 65). Zimmerman played 12 years with Minnesota and Denver; earning First-Team All-Pro honors three times, and making seven Pro Bowl appearances. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

No. 79:  Rosey Brown

Rosie Brown was the New York Giants' left tackle from 1953-65. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams. He was a six-time First-Team All-Pro (1956-59, 1961, 1962), nine-time Pro Bowler and part of an NFL championship team in 1956. Brown was the best of his era.

According to the Hall of Fame, he’s only the second man to be elected on the merits of his offensive line play alone. It would have been a pleasure to have seen him play.

No. 78:  Anthony Munoz

Munoz was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, after a career in which he was a nine-time First-Team All-Pro (1981-83,1985-90) and 11-time Pro Bowler.

Munoz was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, and his first coach was Forrest Gregg, one of the greatest tackles ever. Gregg, a right tackle with the Green Bay Packers on those great teams from the 1960s, surely showed Munoz a thing or two. Munoz started 164 of 168 games from 1980 to 1990. Without him, the Bengals wouldn’t have made the Super Bowl twice in the 1980s.

There’s another tremendous left tackle who made the Hall of Fame and wore No. 78. That would be Art Shell. Shell was one of the best tackles of the 1970s. Shell made eight Pro Bowls, was First-Team All-Pro twice and won two Super Bowls.

No. 77: Willie Roaf

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, Roaf played in 189 career games over 13 seasons and was named First-Team All-NFL seven times (1994-96, 2000, 2003-05), All-NFC six times, and All-AFC three times. He spent the first nine seasons with the New Orleans Saints and the last four with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Roaf was incredibly quick despite his enormous size (6-foot-5, 320 pounds), and he helped the Saints win a playoff game in 2000 with Aaron Brooks as their quarterback. Roaf was simply a great player.

No. 76:  Orlando Pace

Pace was Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, after a career in which he was three times selected a First-Team All-Pro (1999, 2001, 2003), once named a Second-team All-Pro (2000), and earned seven Pro Bowl selections.

He started two Super Bowls for the St. Louis Rams — their victory over the Tennessee Titans and their loss to the New England Patriots. Pace must be mentioned just as prominently as Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt when discussing the Greatest Show on Turf.

He was the first overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Rams and proved them wise, becoming one of the greatest ever to play his position.

No. 75:  Jonathan Ogden

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, Ogden boasts an impressive resume. He was a Super Bowl champ, was a four-time First-Team All-Pro (1997, 2000, 2002, 2003), five-time Second-Team All-Pro (1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006) and was selected to 11 Pro Bowls.

The Baltimore Ravens picked Ogden in the first round of the 1996 Draft (No. 4 overall). Later in the first round, they selected LB Ray Lewis.

The second-best left tackle to wear No. 75 was Winston Hill. He played for the New York Jets from 1963-76 and played left tackle for the first eight years of his career, including winning Super Bowl III. Hill was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2020.

No. 74:  Jimbo Covert

Covert was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020. He was First-Team All-Pro in 1985 and 1986 and Second-Team All-Pro in 1987. Covert was only elected to two Pro Bowls and only played eight years, but he opened holes for Walter Payton.

He was a big part of one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1985 Chicago Bears. Covert battled off Lawrence Taylor, Dexter Manley and Clyde Simmons, among others, earning him a place on the 1980s All-Decade Team.

No. 73:  Joe Thomas

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2023, Thomas will forever be defined by his 10,363 consecutive snaps played — as impressive a feat as Cal Ripken’s mark of 2,632 consecutive games played in MLB. Thomas made 10 Pro Bowls and was part of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team.

He’s not the only greatest offensive lineman to wear  No. 73 — others include the great left guard John Hannah. But Thomas is the best left tackle to wear No. 73.

No. 72:  Dan Dierdorf

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996, he was a First-Team All-Pro three times, made six Pro Bowls and was on the Hall of Fame's All-1970s team.

I’m fudging this a bit because Dierdorf only played left tackle for two seasons (1972, 1973). His best seasons came in the mid-1970s with the St. Louis Cardinals as a right tackle (when Roger Finnie was the left tackle). But find yourself a better left tackle that wore No. 72 — I’ll take Dierdorf in 1972 wearing No. 72 at left tackle.

No. 71: Tony Boselli, Walter Jones, Jason Peters, Trent Williams

Walter Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He was a four-time First-Team All-Pro (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007) and two-time Second-Team All-Pro (2006, 2008), to go along with nine Pro Bowl selections.

It’s hard to put anyone above Jones as the greatest left tackle to wear No. 71. But man, this guy has some tough competition.

During his seven-year career, Tony Boselli was regarded as the premier left tackle in the NFL and persevered through numerous injuries. He led a Jacksonville Jaguars team that reached the AFC Championship Game in the franchise’s second season.

That year marked the first of four straight playoff appearances, as Jacksonville posted regular season records of 9-7, 11-5, 11-5 and 14-2 from 1996-99. Voted to five consecutive Pro Bowls (1997-2001), Boselli was named First-Team All-Pro three consecutive seasons (1997-99). Boselli doesn’t have the longevity that Jones had.

Trent Williams, on the other hand, 163 games for Washington and San Francisco, has the longevity and the credentials. Jason Peters (238 games, 219 starts) for Buffalo, Philadelphia and a smattering of Chicago and Dallas also has the longevity and the credentials.

Toughest call: I’m a Walter Jones guy. But I wouldn’t argue with anyone who picked the other three.

No. 70: Jake Matthews, Rashawn Slater

Jake Matthews is the son of Bruce Matthews, one of the greatest offensive linemen ever. Bruce started 293 NFL games, second most all-time. Jake has already started 145, with no end in sight.

While Bruce was primarily a guard or a center, his son, Jake, has been a left tackle for most of his nine-year career with the Atlanta Falcons. Jake Matthews has his own merits (he started a Super Bowl and made a Pro Bowl), but his bloodlines put him here representing No. 70.

Still, let’s see how Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Rashawn Slater will fare, also wearing uniform No. 70. Slater was a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and made a Pro Bowl in his rookie season. He ruptured his biceps in Week 3 last year, but he’ll take his spot back in 2023 with a chance to continue his stellar career path.

Elliott Kalb has been known in the sports television industry as "Mr. Stats" for more than 35 years. He is a 13-time Sports Emmy winner as a writer, researcher and producer. Follow him on Twitter @MrStats50.