NFL Draft: Is the 1983 Draft Class the Best Ever?

Jerry TappSenior Analyst IIIApril 26, 2012

John Elway: Is he part of the best NFL draft class?
John Elway: Is he part of the best NFL draft class?Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

How will the 2012 NFL draft compare with the previous drafts? What kind of NFL careers will Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil and Trent Richardson have when we look back on their careers in another 15 years?

That is part of the fun of the NFL draft…did those players chosen in the first round deserve to be chosen that high? Did their NFL career warrant that selection?

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at one way to evaluate previous drafts. Following are those drafts that had the most first-round draft choices who eventually were elected to the NFL Hall of Fame:


First-Round Selection Hall of Famers, Draft Year, Players

Six…1983: John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Darrell Green

Four…1952: Les Richter, Ollie Matson, Hugh McElhenny, Frank Gifford

Four…1957: Paul Hornung, Len Dawson, Jim Brown, Jim Parker

Four…1961: Mike Ditka, Jimmy Johnson, Herb Adderly, Bob Lilly

Four…1964: Bob Brown, Charley Taylor, Carl Eller, Paul Warfield

Four…1967: Bob Griese, Floyd Little, Alan Page, Gene Upshaw

Troy Aikman was the No. 1 choice in the 1989 draft
Troy Aikman was the No. 1 choice in the 1989 draftChristian Petersen/Getty Images

Four…1989: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders

Three…1965: Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath

Three…1969: O.J. Simpson, Joe Greene, Roger Wehrli

Three…1978: Earl Campbell, James Lofton, Ozzie Newsome

Three…1985: Bruce Smith, Chris Doleman, Jerry Rice


While the 1983 draft had the most first rounders that ended up in Canton, you can make a case that the 1989 draft had the most impressive first five selections. In that draft, four of the first five selections made the Hall of Fame (Aikman No. 1, Sanders No. 3, Thomas No. 4 and Sanders No. 5) The only top-five selection not in the Hall? Tony Mandarich.

For another angle, let’s look at the 67 players selected to the Hall of Fame since 2000. In the last 13 Hall of Fame classes, 36 (53.7 percent) were first-round picks in the NFL draft.

Here’s a breakdown of where the last 67 Hall of Famers elected were drafted in the NFL draft:

Round 1: 36

Round 2: Seven

Warren Moon was undrafted but is a Hall of Famer
Warren Moon was undrafted but is a Hall of FamerAndrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Round 3: Seven

Round 4: Two

Round 5: One

Round 6 or later: Seven

Undrafted: Four (Jack Butler, John Randle, Emmitt Thomas, Warren Moon)

Drafted in the Supplemental Draft: One (Steve Young)

No NFL draft: Two (Benny Friedman, Fritz Pollard)


Here’s another quick stat…of the Hall of Famers elected since 2000, here are the players who were drafted with the lowest picks:


Pick, Round, Player

No. 245 (Round 18) Chris Hanburger

No. 203 (Round 8) Richard Dent

No. 192 (Round 7) Shannon Sharpe

No. 182 (Round 7) Rayfield Wright

No. 105 (Round 4) Harry Carson

No. 102 (Round 13) Nick Buoniconti


Of the 67 players selected to the NFL Hall of Fame since 2000, four were the No. 1 overall pick in the draft: Bruce Smith (1985), Troy Aikman (1989), John Elway (1983) and Ron Yary (1968)

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