10 Best NFL Draft Quarterback Classes Since 1980
For the third time in history, five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but it was the first time ever that four were taken with the first 10 picks. Only time will tell how this class of 13 quarterbacks – headlined by No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold (No. 3), Josh Allen (No. 7), Josh Rosen (No. 10), and Lamar Jackson (No. 32) – fares in the NFL.
But while some quarterback classes have produced all-time greats, there have been plenty of others in the draft’s long history that have disappointed (to put it mildly). Here are the best quarterback classes since 1980. By the way, one Hall of Famer combined with a bunch of busts does not make for a great class.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
10. 2008 – 13 Quarterbacks Drafted
Rest of the class: Brian Brohm, Kevin O’Connell, John David Booty, Dennis Dixon, Josh Johnson, Erik Ainge, Colt Brennan, Andre Woodson, Matt Flynn, Alex Brink
Ryan’s play as the Atlanta Falcons’ signal-caller – most notably his superb 2016 MVP season – has been stellar, while Flacco has been the Baltimore Ravens’ starter since 2008 and was MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. Surprisingly, Flacco has never been to a Pro Bowl.
9. 1999 – 13 Quarterbacks Drafted
Rest of the class: Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Brock Huard, Joe Germaine, Kevin Daft, Michael Bishop, Chris Greisen, Scott Covington
Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round. Three of them – Couch (No. 1 overall pick), Smith (No. 3) and McNown (No. 12) – did not pan out, but McNabb (No. 2) and Culpepper (No. 11) went on to have great careers.
8. 1993 – 8 Quarterbacks Drafted
Rest of the class: Billy Joe Hobert, Gino Torretta, Alex Van Pelt
Of the eight quarterbacks drafted, four went on to make the Pro Bowl and played for a combined 56 seasons. Not too shabby.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
7. 2011 – 12 Quarterbacks Drafted
Rest of the class: Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett, Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates, Nathan Enderle, Greg McElroy
This class could move up even higher depending on the future success of these four players. Newton was the league MVP in 2015.
6. 1998 – 8 Quarterbacks Drafted
Surefire Hall of Famers
Rest of the class: Jonathan Quinn, John Dutton, Moses Moreno
As I said earlier, one Hall of Famer does not make up for an otherwise bad class, a distinction headlined by all-time bust Ryan Leaf. However, when the one “hit” is Manning, his resume alone can make an otherwise good class great.
5. 2001 – 11 Quarterbacks Drafted
Surefire Hall of Famers
Rest of class: Marques Tuiasosopo, Chris Weinke, Jesse Palmer, Mike McMahon, Josh Booty, Josh Heupel
Brees will certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and despite his ups and downs, Vick was one of the best quarterbacks in the league in his prime.
4. 2005 – 14 Quarterbacks Drafted
Rest of the class: Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, David Greene, Stefan Lefors, Dan Orlovsky, Adrian McPherson, James Kilian,
The careers of first-round picks Smith and Rodgers speak for themselves, but late-round selections Anderson and Cassel have had some success as well.
3. 2012 – 11 Quarterbacks Drafted
Robert Griffin III
Rest of the class: Ryan Lindley, B.J. Coleman, Chandler Harnish
With the exception of RGIII, who has never been able to overcome nagging injuries, the other quarterbacks on this list are all in the prime of their careers.
2. 2004 – 17 Quarterbacks Drafted
Rest of the class: J.P. Losman, Luke McCown, Craig Krenzel, Andy Hall, Josh Harris, Jim Sorgi, Jeff Smoker, John Navarre, Cody Pickett, Casey Bramlet, Matt Mauck, B.J. Symons, Bradlee Van Pelt
Manning and Roethlisberger have both won two Super Bowls and will likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rivers never won a Super Bowl, but he may be joining them based on his prolific passing.
1. 1983 – 16 Quarterbacks Drafted
Hall of Famers
Rest of the class: Jeff Christensen, Reggie Collier, Babe Laufenberg, Tom Ramsey, Bruce Mathison, Jim Bob Taylor, Clete Casper, David Mangrum, Scott Lindquist
Of the 16 quarterbacks drafted, six were taken in the first round and three are in the Hall of Fame. No other class on this list comes close to matching that type of success yet.