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10 Best NFL Draft Quarterback Classes Since 1980

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

The 1983 NFL Draft will forever be remembered for producing three Hall of Fame quarterbacks

With possibly only four quarterbacks projected to go in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, this may not be one of the best class of field generals in NFL history. 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).

Before we dive in, we say goodbye to Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, and the 22 other quarterbacks in the 2008 and 1999 classes.

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.

10. 2018 – 13 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Josh Allen
Lamar Jackson

Notables
Baker Mayfield
Sam Darnold
Josh Rosen

Rest of the class: Mason Rudolph, Kyle Lauletta, Mike White, Luke Falk, Tanner Lee, Danny Etling, Alex McGough, and Logan Woodside

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round in this class, including two Heisman winners in Jackson and Mayfield. Jackson had a season for the ages in 2019, winning the league MVP award in just his second season.

Related: 10 Greatest Quarterback Seasons in NFL History

9. 2011 – 12 Quarterbacks Drafted

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Pro Bowlers
Cam Newton
Andy Dalton
Tyrod Taylor

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.

8. 1993 – 8 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Drew Bledsoe
Mark Brunell
Elvis Grbac
Trent Green

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.

7. 2017 – 10 Quarterbacks Drafted

Pro Bowlers
Patrick Mahomes
Deshaun Watson
Mitchell Trubisky

Rest of the class: DeShone Kizer, Davis Webb, C. J. Beathard, Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman, Brad Kaaya, and Chad Kelly

Mahomes, who has already won a Super Bowl and an NFL MVP award, and Watson, who made three straight Pro Bowls before the turbulent 2021 season, are who set this class apart. 

6. 1998 – 8 Quarterbacks Drafted

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Hall of Famers
Peyton Manning

Pro Bowlers
Brian Griese
Matt Hasselbeck

Notables
Ryan Leaf
Charlie Batch

Rest of the class: Jonathan Quinn, John Dutton, Moses Moreno

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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

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Surefire Hall of Famers
Drew Brees

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

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Surefire Hall of Famers
Aaron Rodgers

Pro Bowlers
Alex Smith
Derek Anderson
Matt Cassel

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 Rodgers and Smith speak for themselves, but late-round selections Anderson and Cassel had some success as well.

3. 2012 – 11 Quarterbacks Drafted

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

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

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

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

Pro Bowlers
Eli Manning
Ben Roethlisberger
Philip Rivers
Matt Schaub

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

John Elway, QB, Denver Broncos

Hall of Famers
John Elway
Jim Kelly
Dan Marino

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.

— 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.