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10 Best NFL Draft Quarterback Classes Since 1980

John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino - 1993 NFL Draft

John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino - 1993 NFL Draft

Five quarterbacks could be taken with the first 10 picks in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. 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

Pro Bowlers
Matt Ryan

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Notables
Joe Flacco
Chad Henne

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 was MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. Surprisingly, Flacco has never been to a Pro Bowl.

9. 1999 – 13 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Donovan McNabb
Daunte Culpepper

Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb

Notables
Shaun King
Aaron Brooks

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. 2011 – 12 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Cam Newton
Andy Dalton
Tyrod Taylor

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

Notables
Colin Kaepernick

Rest of the class: Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett, Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates, Nathan Enderle, Greg McElroy

This class started strong with the success of these four players and Newton was the league MVP in 2015.

7. 1993 – 8 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Drew Bledsoe
Mark Brunell
Elvis Grbac
Trent Green

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Notables
Rick Mirer

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)

6. 1998 – 8 Quarterbacks Drafted

Hall of Famers
Peyton Manning

Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning

Pro Bowlers
Brian Griese
Matt Hasselbeck

Notables
Ryan Leaf
Charlie Batch

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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
Drew Brees

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Pro Bowlers
Michael Vick

Notables
Quincy Carter
Sage Rosenfels
A.J. Feeley

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

Pro Bowlers
Alex Smith
Aaron Rodgers
Derek Anderson
Matt Cassel

Aaron Rodgers

Notables
Kyle Orton
Jason Campbell
Ryan Fitzpatrick

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

Pro Bowlers
Andrew Luck
Robert Griffin III
Russell Wilson
Nick Foles
Kirk Cousins
Ryan Tannehill

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Notables
Brandon Weeden
Brock Osweiler

Rest of the class: Ryan Lindley, B.J. Coleman, Chandler Harnish

Foles and Wilson went on to win Super Bowl rings, while Luck and RGIII will always leave us wondering what might have been.

2. 2004 – 17 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Eli Manning
Ben Roethlisberger
Philip Rivers
Matt Schaub

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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
John Elway
Jim Kelly
Dan Marino

Denver Broncos QB John Elway

Pro Bowlers
Ken O’Brien

Notables
Tony Eason
Todd Blackledge
Gary Kubiak

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.