It takes time to truly appreciate the greatness of a draft class, meaning the 10 we have featured in this one don’t go further than 2004, which might end up being the second great quarterback class with Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, eclipsing the 1983 generation, with John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
Another very strong draft class of recent years in the one from 2003, although it isn’t really loaded with quarterbacks which sometimes makes it a bit forgotten, but the talent across the board in almost every position is quite astounding. Taking a quick look at the 2013 class, it’s hard to see it as one that will be remembered for too many year, but you never know how things turn out.
10 – Class of 2004
While no one from this draft class has made the NFL yet, quite a few of the players are still in their prime, and 34 of them have made the Pro Bowl, including 15 in the first round alone. It has produced two Super Bowl winners among quarterbacks with Eli Manning and Ben Roethilsberger, while other excellent players like Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker, Jared Allen, Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Vilma and DeAngelo Hall have also come out in that year.
9 – Class of 1998
No hall of famers yet, but out of the 34 players who have made the Pro Bowl, quite a few will reach Canton, with Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Randy Moss looking like obvious choices. 10 Pro Bowlers in the first round and a very deep draft through the entire 7, producing players like London Fletcher, Hines Ward and Alan Faneca.
8 – Class of 1981
An excellent crop of players, with six of them reaching the pro football hall of fame and a total of 25 making the Pro Bowl. Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, Howie Long, Rickey Jackson and Russ Grimm are the cream of the crop, while Charlie Brown, Dexter Manley, Eric Wright and Cris Collinsworth are also worth mentioning.
7 – Class of 1967
A weird draft, with 7 hall of fame inductees but only four more players to reach the Pro Bowl. Bob Griese, Floyd Little, Alan Page, Gene Upshaw, Lem Barney, Willie Lanier, Ken Houston and Rayfield Wright made the hall of fame. Bubba Smith, who passed away recently, was the number one pick in this draft.
6 – Class of 1961
Another draft with 7 players in the hall of fame – Herb Adderley, Bob Lilly, Deacon Jones, Fran Tarkenton, Mike Ditka, Jimmy Johnson and Billy Shaw. Seven more reached the Pro Bowl, including the number one pick Tommy Mason, along with Norm Snead and Joe Rutgens, the number 2 and 3 picks.
5 – Class of 1953
A draft that gave us 8 hall of fame players – Joe Schmidt, Roosevelt Brown, Jim Ringo, Doug Atkins, John Henry Johnson, Bob St. Clair, Stan Jones and Chuck Noll. Four more players, including Johnny Olszewski and Harley Sewell, reached the Pro Bowl.
4 – Class of 2003
Ten years later, these should be the final dominant seasons for the guys that came out in 2003, which include 41 players making it to the Pro Bowl, including 13 of them in the first round. Carson Palmer was the top pick in this draft, which also included Andre Johnson, Antonio Gates, Robert Mathis, Asante Samuel, Jason Witten, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dallas Clark, Jordan Gross and Troy Polamalu.
3 – Class of 1957
A total of 17 Pro Bowl players, nine of them reaching the hall of fame – Jim Brown, Jim Parker, Sonny Jurgensen, Paul Hornung, Len Dawson, Don Maynard, Henry Jordan, Tommy McDonald and Gene Hickerson. Joe Arnett, John Brodie and Ron Kramer also came out of this draft class.
2 – Class of 1983
Known as the quarterback draft, with John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly being picked in the first round, all three of them making the NFL. Four more players – Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and Richard Dent also reached the hall of fame. A total of 33 players also made the Pro Bowl, including Curt Warner, Chris Hinton and Jim Covert.
1 – Class of 1964
Ten men entered into the Hall of Fame, 11 more reached the Pro Bowl as well. Paul Warfield, Charley Taylor, Roger Staubach, Leroy Kelly, Mel Renfro, Paul Krause, Dave Wilcox, Bob Brown, Carl Eller and Bob Hayes made it into the Pro Football hall of fame, while number one pick Dave Parks and number 8 selection Marv Woodson were among those who made it into the Pro Bowl.