When it comes to drafting quarterbacks in the NFL, the 1983 draft class is the benchmark.
But seven years after their own draft, the 2004 quarterback class is building up quite a resume of their own.
There is no arguing the greatness of the 1983 draft class. Of the six quarterbacks drafted in the first round, three (Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly) are in the Hall of Fame. As a group, they combined for 25 pro bowls, and 11 Super Bowl appearances.
Meanwhile, the 2004 draft class may not have the sheer numbers. But in just seven seasons their numbers are in the same neighbourhood and their postseason accomplishments may be unmatched. Of the four quarterbacks drafted in the first round that year, they have already combined for five Pro Bowls, four Super Bowl appearances, and three championships.
At this point, it is a little difficult to compare career numbers since the 2004 class still has a lot of football left to play. But what we can do is compare the numbers and accomplishments of each group in the first seven seasons following their draft.
In the following table we look at the career totals for years 1-7 of each group1…
In their first seven seasons, the 2004 draft class has better numbers than the 1983 in several key statistics. The 2004 class has four more playoff wins, despite playing one fewer postseason games. They have a better touchdown-to-interception ratio and a better Adjusted Yards per Attempt (AY/A).
The 1983 class does have the advantage in Approximate Value (AV) thanks in large part to Dan Marino’s astronomical numbers early in his career. But the 1983 class also had more QBs than the 2004 class. If we adjust for games started, the 2004 class has a comparable AV (.82/start) to the 1983 class (.83/start).
Of course, where the 2004 class is well ahead of the 1983 class in Super Bowls. In their entire career, the 1983 class was 2-9 in the Super Bowl, and they were 0-5 in their first seven seasons. The 2004 class is already 3-1 with a lot of years left to play.
No matter what your criteria, whether it be sheer numbers or postseason accomplishments, so far the 2004 QB class is on pace with the 1983 group. And you could make an argument that they are already a step ahead.
1 Jim Kelly played in the USFL for three seasons before joining the Bills in 1986.