Comparing The Quarterback Draft Classes: 1983 vs. 2004.

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IJuly 6, 2009

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 8:  Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee John Elway poses with his bust during the 2004 NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony August 8, 2004 in Canton, Ohio.  (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

There is little debate over what NFL draft class was the best ever for the Quarterback position. The 1983 NFL Draft produced some of the most prolific passers to ever play the game.

For this article, we are only going to discuss the first round.


Pick OneJohn Elway, Indianapolis Colts, traded to the Denver Broncos.

With the first pick in the NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected John Elway. Prior to the draft, Elway informed the Colts that he would not play for them, and if he had to, he would pursue a career in baseball.

Elway had already played two seasons in the New York Yankees farm system, so the Colts had to either trade him, or lose the pick.  Imagine if this had gone the other way.

In his second season with the Broncos, Elway set franchise records for most pass attempts, completions and yards.

After losing his first three Super Bowls, Elway managed to capture two Lombardi trophies, in 1997 and 1998.

Elway was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first eligible year in 2004.

Pick sevenTodd Blackledge, Kansas City Chiefs.

Blackledge played five years with the Chiefs before playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers for two. Blackledge never measured up to his draft status and is considered one of the biggest busts in Chiefs history.

Pick 14Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills.

Instead of playing for the Bills, Kelly started his career in the USFL with the Houston Gamblers. During his two seasons in Houston, Kelly threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns. He won the USFL MVP in 1984.

In 1986, the Houston Gamblers folded, and Kelly was set to play for the New Jersey Generals—he was even on the cover of Sports Illustrated holding a Generals helmet.  That team, along with the rest of the USFL, went under, leaving Kelly no place to go but Buffalo.

He is now known as the best Quarterback in the history of the Buffalo Bills. Jim Kelly led his team to four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990—1993. He is also the only player to lose four Super Bowls.

Kelly was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2002, his first year of eligibility.

Pick 15Tony Eason, New England Patriots.

In his second season in the NFL, Eason led the Patriots to the Super Bowl, becoming the first player ever to lead his team to three straight playoff victories on the road. 

Eason and the Patriots ran into the Super Bowl Shuffeling Chicago Bears, and one of the most lob-sided Super Bowls losses 46-10.

Eason would play two more seasons with the Patriots, before being traded to the New York Jets.  Eason lasted one season with the Jets before retiring.

Pick 24Ken O'Brien, New York Jets.

O'Brein lasted 11 years in the NFL was was selected to the Pro Bowl twice. In 1985, O'Brein was the highest rated QB in the NFL.

In 1986, after leading the Jets to a 10-1 record, O'Brein broke a finger, leading the Jets would to five straight losses.

O'Brein signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993, before retiring.

Pick 27Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins.

This was the biggest shock of the draft. Due to rumors of drug abuse, Dan Marino fell to the end of the first round. The biggest shock was that the hometown boy out of Pittsburgh was not selected by the Steelers at pick 21.

Marino was the first player taken in the USFL draft, by the LA Express. Unable to come to a contract agreement, Marino spent his entire career with the Dolphins.

Dan Marino is the most famous QB to never win a Super Bowl. After reaching the Super Bowl in his second year, Marino never returned.

When he retired, Marino held or tied in 26 different records. Some have since been broke, but 15 of those records still have Marino as the leader.

Marino was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2005.


Pick oneEli Manning, San Diego Chargers, Traded to New York Giants.

Similar to John Elway, Eli Manning told the San Diego Chargers not to draft him, because he would not play for them. Unlike Elway, Manning did not have a pro baseball career to fall back on, but having an older brother like Peyton Manning, Eli would not have starved.

Eli got his wish by being traded to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers, who was drafted by the Giants with the fourth pick.

In his fourth season, Manning led his team to the Super Bowl against the then undefeated New England Patriots.

Manning led a drive at the end of the game that brought the Giants the Lombardi Trophy and Eli the MVP Award.

Pick fourPhilip Rivers, New York Giants, traded to San Diego Chargers.

Everyone was shocked at this pick, including Rivers, who on ESPN was at home waiting for Pittsburgh to select at 11, because that is where everyone believed he was going.

After the trade, Rivers was stuck behind rocket armed Drew Brees in San Diego, but after two seasons, Brees was gone, and Rivers took over.

Though he has not won the Super Bowl yet, stat wise, Rivers is the best QB selected in 2004. With a 92.9 QB rating and over 10,000 yards so far in his career, it is believed that Rivers will be a Super Bowl Champion at some point in his career.

Pick 11Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers.

The rumors were that Pittsburgh wanted Philip Rivers, but Roethlisberger was the only one of the top three Quarterbacks invited to Pittsburgh for a visit.

In his first five seasons, Roethlisberger has won more games than any QB in the history of the NFL, became the only rookie to go undefeated, holds the second best playoff winning percentage, and became only the second quarterback in history to win two Super Bowls in his first five seasons.

Pick 22J.P. Losman, Buffalo Bills.

Trading back into the first round, Buffalo selected J.P. Losman. Losman is known as the worst, and most forgotten person out of the 2004 QB class.

Losman had a decent season in 2007, but the Bills selected Trent Edwards in the third round, and after an early season injury to Losman, Edwards took over, and has been the starter since.

Now out of the NFL, Losman was selected by the Las Vegas franchise of the UFL.

The Difference.

There is little argument about which class is statistically better. 1983 has three players that are in the Hall of Fame and have held every major record the NFL has for the position.

The 1983 class went to a grand total of 10 Super Bowls in a combined 64 years of playing, having won two, both by Elway.

In the 20 combined years of the class of 2004, they have recorded a total of three Super Bowl trips. They won all three.

Can someone really say at this point that the 2004 class is better than the 1983 class?  Not yet. But if Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger keep performing the way that they have, the Class of '83 may be replaced by the Class of '04.