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Placement of the best QB classes in NFL Draft history

Drafts for classes are often evaluated according to the strength of their draft classes, and 2021 is shaping up to be one of the deeper quarterback drafts in recent times. These 20 previous drafts are the yardstick for all future quarterback drafts.

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The incredible quarterback class from 1983 was shown in an ESPN 30 to 30 documentary, with six quarterbacks taken in the first round and three went on to become Hall of Famers. John Elway (1: 1), Jim Kelly (1:14) and Dan Marino (1:27) combined to go to 23 Pro Bowls, while Ken O’Brien also made two Pro Bowls himself. The other first rounders were Tony Eason (1:15) and Todd Blackledge (1: 7).


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The 2004 draft had four first-round picks, with three (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger) likely to be dropped in Canton one day. These three quarterbacks are combined for four Super Bowls and 18 Pro Bowls. Third-round pick Matt Schaub has also had a delightful career with two Pro Bowls.


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The 1957 class is known for Hall of Famers Len Dawson (first round) and Sonny Jurgensen (fourth round), but behind them were three more outstanding NFL quarterbacks in John Brodie (first round), Jack Kemp (17th round) and Spleen Plum (second round). The 23 Pro Bowls from the class clearly make it one of the best ever.


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The historic 1971 class started with three quarterbacks in Jim Plunkett (Patriots), Archie Manning (Saints) and Dan Pastroini (Oilers). While all three were quality NFL players, the best in class was third-round pick Ken Anderson, MVP in 1981, and fourth-round pick Joe Theismann, who eventually made his way to Washington and won an MVP. In total, the class had nine Pro Bowls seasons.


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The 2005 class does not quite stick with the 2004 class, but it is not dormant. First overall pick Alex Smith has had a long and productive career, and 24th overall pick Aaron Rodgers has become one of the quarterbacks in history with nine Pro Bowls and three MVPs. Seventh round Ryan Fitzpatrick has had quite a career as a starter, and fellow throwers Jason Campbell (first round), Matt Cassel (seventh round) and Kyle Orton (fourth round) also had good NFL races.


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It’s still relatively early, but the 2012 quarterback class looks excellent under the leadership of third-round and seven-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson. Most of the four quarterbacks in the first round were productive, including Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill, while Nick Foles (third round) and Kirk Cousins ​​(fourth round) were stealers. Throughout the 2020 season, the class has counted 16 Pro Bowls.


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There is no Hall of Famers from the 1987 class, but six different quarterbacks made at least one Pro Bowl. Rich Gannon led the way with four Pro Bowls seasons and an MVP after driving in the fourth lap. Top overall draft picks played in 21 seasons with two Pro Bowls. The singles Pro Bowl quarterbacks were Jim Harbaugh (first round), Chris Miller (first round), Steve Beuerlein (fourth round) and Don Majkowski (10th round).


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The 1973 class had only one quarterback in the first round (Bert Jones), but the class is headed by Hall of Famer Dan Fouts (third round), Ron Jaworski (second round) and Joe Ferguson (third round). Second-round pick Gary Huff also started parts of three seasons.


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The 1998 draft undoubtedly had the most memorable two best picks in history, with Peyton Manning heading to Indianapolis and the infamous draft bust Ryan Leaf, who later went on to run for the Chargers. Manning is on the shortlist as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever with 14 Pro Bowls and five MVPs. The draft also produced a pair of Pro Bowlers later when Brian Griese and Matt Hasselbeck emerged. Second-round pick Charlie Batch also had a few notable years.


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The 2000 draft is known as the one that produced the sixth round and GOAT Tom Brady. Everything else is just a footnote. Still, Chad Pennington (first round) and Marc Bulger (sixth round) had good NFL careers.


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First overall draft pick Drew Bledsoe had a fine NFL career with four Pro Bowls in 14 seasons, though he is best remembered for being the injury that led to Tom Brady’s appearance in New England. The second strong value from the draft came much later, with Mark Brunell (fifth round), Elvis Grbac (eighth round) and Trent Green (eighth round) having excellent careers. Second overall pick Rick Mirer was a memorable bust for the Seahawks after a strong career at Notre Dame.


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Looking back, the draft for 2011 is a bit of a disappointment with three first round busts (Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder). The three most prominent quarterbacks from the class, Cam Newton (first round), Andy Dalton (second round) and Colin Kaepernick (second round) had relatively short peaks, but together they have six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl appearances. Tyrod Taylor has also been a solid journeyman from the sixth round.


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First round selected Norm Snead and Billy Kilmer were NFL quality starters who both made the Pro Bowls, but the best player taken in 1961 was the third round, Fran Tarkenton. He created the Hall of Fame with nine Pro Bowls and an MVP Award over 18 NFL seasons. Eight-round pick Charley Johnson also had a great 15-year NFL career and made a Pro Bowl.


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The 1949 draft class had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, each selected late. Fourth round pick Norm Van Brocklin went to the Rams, while 12th rounder George Blanda was also pitched in Canton. First-round pick Bobb Thomason and Frank Tripucka also experienced NFL success, making four Pro Bowls combined.


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Michael Vick was the first overall pick in 2001 and helped change the game with his running ability. Unfortunately, his career was disrupted by problems off the field, but he still made four career Pro Bowls. However, the class in the draft was the second round, Drew Brees, who is a confident Hall of Famer after making 13 Pro Bowls and winning two Offensive Player of the Year Awards in 19 seasons. The rest of the draft didn’t have much of an NFL significance.


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Quarterback Angelo Bertelli was the top pick in the 1944 class, but Hall of Famers Otto Graham (first round) and Bob Waterfield (fifth round) were the only quarterbacks of great NFL importance to be selected. The pair combined to win five NFL championships.


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The draft for 1999 was a mixed bag. The draft included five quarterbacks in the first round, but only Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper really went out of the group and went a total of nine Pro Bowls. Still, there were some surprises from the class, like second-round pick Shaun King and fourth-round Aaron Brooks.


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Roger Staubach was a 10th round in the 1964 draft from the Navy. He did not play for the Cowboys until 1969, but went on to create the Hall of Fame. The only second Pro Bowl season from the draft was added by 11th round Bob Berry, though Pete Beathard (first round), Bill Munson (first round) and Jack Concannon (second round) saw over 30 starts in the league.


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The value of the 1979 draft rests on two quarterbacks, with seventh overall pick Phil Simms and third-round Joe Joe having great careers. Montana is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, winning four Super Bowls and winning two MVP Awards with the 49ers. Jack Thompson (first round), Steve Fuller (first round) and Steve Dils (fourth round) also started more than 20 games in the league.


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The quarterback class in 2017 has a chance to be elite depending on how career for the first round picks Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky. Mahomes has an incredible start, winning an MVP and appearing in two Super Bowls in his first three years as a starter. Watson has also made three Pro Bowls, but off-field accusations are shooting his future. Trubisky had an up and down first four seasons in Chicago, even though he did the Pro Bowl in 2018.

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