It really can’t get any better than John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly in the same NFL draft class can it? Well The Commish and Quick Fix Sports are on a mission to find out. Three NFL QB draft classes will undoubtedly be considered among the greatest in NFL history. The QB class of 1983 and 2004 produced from the moment they entered the league; now QB’s in both classes are either Hall-of-Famers, Super Bowl Champions, or perennial Pro Bowlers.
After an astounding 2012 season for the five rookie QB’s, it’s hard not to wonder how they’ll compare to the legendary QB’s of 83’ and 04’. The five 2012 youngsters broke in to the NFL and immediately started 78 of 80 possible games; something neither the class of 83’ or 04’ can claim. Two of five QB’s from the class of 83’ started as rookies (Marino and Elway), while only “Big Ben” Roethlisberger started as a rookie for the class of 04’ (going 13-0 as starter).
In this article we will rank all three QB draft classes based on their first season as a starting QB. We will also compare the career numbers of these talented groups of QB’s. The class of 2012 obviously has a long way to go to catch either 83’ or 04’, but given the way they started, comparison is inevitable. Which QB class is ranked #1 in their first year as a starter? Get ready to be amazed…enjoy!
Best NFL QB Class – First Year as the Starter
Minimum of 8 games started
(Year QB became starter)
#3 Class of 1983
The class of 83’ threw for the most TD’s with the least amount of INT’s in their first collective year as starters. Dan Marino broke in with a phenomenal year, throwing for 20 TD’s to just six picks. Everyone knows Marino, Elway, and Kelly but lesser recognized Ken O’Brien and Tony Eason had fantastic first seasons. Both threw for over 60% completions and had 23 & 25 TD passes respectively.
Marino and Elway took their teams to the playoffs in their rookie seasons. Elway however didn’t have a very productive rookie campaign going 4-6 with 7 TD’s to 14 INT’s with a horrible completion percentage. Although they end up being ranked 3rd in their first year as a starter…this class, in my mind, changed the NFL; they were the pioneers of the passing league the NFL has become.
#2 Class of 2012
The Andrew Luck and RG3 sweepstakes in the 2012 NFL draft was likely the most highly anticipated #1 and #2 picks of all-time. In their rookie seasons they did not disappoint; both QB’s made the playoffs with a combined 20-11 record. Third round selection Russell Wilson also took the league by storm, tying the rookie TD record with 26, and led the Seahawks to the playoffs.
The most phenomenal aspect of this class is that all 5 QB’s started from week 1 and missed only 2 games as a group the entire season. It’s hard to imagine another year in which five QB’s break in to the league as rookies, to not only start, but perform so well (each threw for 3000+ yards). It may not happen again for a very long time.
You may be asking, then why aren’t they #1? Well the league isn’t the same as it was in 2004 or 1983; in those days (especially in 83’) it was very common for rookie QB’s to sit for several years holding a clipboard. With the money paid today, many times it’s no longer an option for NFL Franchises to sit lottery QB’s. This is why we used the QB’s first year as a starter, instead of each QB’s actual rookie season.
#1 Class of 2004
The class of 2004 posted a tremendous .672 winning percentage equaling the total number of wins of the class of 2012, with 14 less games. Roethlisberger, Manning, and Rivers went a combined 38-7 in their first year as starters. As excited as people are with the 2012 bunch…Luck, Griffin III, and Wilson went a combined 31-15.
Manning, Rivers, and Roethlisberger all led their teams to the playoffs in year one. Roethlisberger was unmatched going 13-0 as a rookie, leading his Steelers to a 15-1 regular season record. The team would eventually lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship, but a new bar for rookie QB’s was established.
Phillip Rivers sat behind Drew Brees for 2 years, but when he got his chance went 14-2 with help from teammates Ladanian Tomlinson & Shawne Merriman. Manning and Roethlisberger get most of the attention due to their combined 4 championships (two of 11 QB’s with multiple titles). However, Rivers and Schaub are efficient passers who have been racking up stats.
The Class of 2004 is #1 on our list as they completely dominated in their first seasons as the starting QB’s. It should be interesting to see where they stand career-wise versus the 1983 Hall of Famers, although they are still compiling stats and likely will continue to do so for several years.
QFS Rating System
To compare the three QB classes we simply used a 3-point scale. The QB class with the most/highest in any category received 3pts. The class second in the category got 2pts, and the last place class got 1-point. The same system is used in the career comparison as well. The tie-breaker used in the first year as starting QB was the overall winning percentage, which went to the class of 2004 (.672).
QB Class First Year as Starter – Stat Comparison
Best NFL QB Class – Career
For kicks here is how all three NFL QB classes compare by career. I don’t know if there will ever be a class like 1983 when you see the sheer mass of what they’ve accomplished. If someone is to challenge, it will likely be the seasoned class of 2004 or the young guns of 2012. Only time will tell…
*MVP total is Season MVP or Super Bowl MVP