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Ranking 5 Best NFL Draft Classes of All Time

Year in and year out, the conversation surrounding which is the best NFL Draft class of all time usually starts looming around once draft season comes around.

While some people base their decisions on which classes had the biggest name talents, others base themselves solely on talent. At the end of the day, though, whatever you want to use as your criteria for picking, there is a group of distinct draft classes that will always stand above all others as the best in the event’s history.

Ranking 5 Best NFL Draft Classes of All Time
Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly/WAYNE SCARBERRY / AFP

As we wait for the 2024 NFL Draft to come around, let’s break down the top five best draft classes of all time.

Here’s a look at some NFL Draft Odds to consider!

1. 1983 Draft Class

If you ever run into anybody who asks you who had the best draft class ever, take this into account. Starting out with the fact that three of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game were picked in this draft class should tell you enough as to why 1983 was the best class in NFL history.

You have John Elway, Denver Broncos legend; Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills legend; and Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins legend. But why stop there, this class was stacked to the absolute brim with some of the best football players from the 1980s and ‘90’s.

Between LA Rams star running back Eric Dickerson, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent and offensive tackle Jimbo Covert, and many other stars that came out of this draft, there’s no debate: The 1983 class will always reign supreme.

2. 1981 Draft Class

Yes, 1983 had some of the best offensive talents that would go on to shape pro football in the 1980s and ‘90s, but if you want to talk about sheer physical dominance and talent that would have anybody running from fear, how about the 1981 class?

Considered as the best defensive class of all time, we’re talking about a who’s who of defensive giants that would go on to become pivotal franchise players for their respective teams. Oh yes, and Hall of Famers.

With Lawrence Taylor picked No. 2 overall by the New York Giants, this draft can brag about boasting the most defensive talents in league history all in one class.

Besides Taylor, there was San Francisco 49ers legendary defensive back Ronnie Lott, Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley, Chicago Bears famed linebacker “Samurai Mike” Michael Singletary, Oakland Raiders defensive end Howie Long – yes, FOX Sports’ Long – and New Orleans Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson, the first member of the famed “Dome Patrol” LB crew.

That’s ample proof that 1981 was the year for defensive legends to enter the NFL.

3. 2004 Draft Class

Just like 1983 had one of the best trio of quarterbacks enter the league in that class, so did 2004 with New York Giants two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, San Diego/LA Chargers legend Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, the last great passer the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Not to be outdone by other classes where talent spanned widely besides the QB position, Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best wide receivers in the game and perhaps the Arizona Cardinals’ best draft pick in history, joined the league as well in ’04. Former New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the biggest man to ever wear overalls and cowboy boots in the league, was also snapped up in this class.

Last, but certainly not least, former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and the late Sean Taylor, a star safely with the Washington Redskins, were also a part of this class.

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4. 1964 Draft Class

One thing all of the previously mentioned draft classes have in common is the amount of Hall of Famers – or in the case of the 2004 class, potential Hall of Famers – that were drafted. When it comes to the amount of representatives in Canton, Ohio, no class stands a chance against the 1964 class.

With 10 Hall of Famer players and one coach drafted that year, no class has more inductees in Canton. It includes three players from the Dallas Cowboys – legendary passer Roger Staubach, CB Mel Renfro and wide receiver Bob Hayes – and two each from the Cleveland Browns (running back Leroy Kelly and wide receiver Paul Warfield) and Washington Redskins (wide receiver Charley Taylor and safety Paul Krause), as well as Minnesota defensive end Carl Eller, San Francisco linebacker Dave Wilcox and Philadelphia offensive tackle Bob Brown.

Bill Parcells, who guided the New York Giants to a pair of Super Bowl wins before coaching stints with the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, rounds out the Hall of Famers from the 1964 class. He was a seventh-round pick of the Detroit Lions.

5. 1989 Draft Class

Of the first five picks in the 1989 draft class, four would be enshrined into the Hall of Fame. That’s 80% of the top picks right there. Super Bowl champion Troy Aikman of Dallas, Lions megastar RB Barry Sanders, Chiefs defensive monster Derrick Thomas and Atlanta’s most polarizing player in history, Deion Sanders, would all go on to become some of the league’s most elite players in the 1990s.

This draft class would also include Denver safety and Hall of Fame Steve Atwater, Cleveland’s all-purpose superstar Eric Metcalf, and two of Dallas’ most important pieces in its Super Bowl-winning offensive line, Mark Stepnoski and Steve Wisniewski.

But wait, Wisniewski didn’t even play for the Cowboys, so why is he so important? Well, because right after drafting him, Dallas would trade him to the Raiders in exchange for fullback Daryl Johnston, another pivotal piece on a team that won three Super Bowls in the 1990’s

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Questions Of The Day

What Was The Best Draft Class In NFL History?

According to most NFL news and history experts, the 1983 draft class stands tall as the best in the event’s history.

What Has Been The Best QB Draft Class In History?

The 1983 class with John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino has always been considered as the best QB draft class in the history of the NFL.

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