NFL Draft: Is the 1983 draft the best ever?

NFL superstar John Elway prepares to launch a ...

Is John Elway part of the NFL's greatest draft class? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.

How will this year’s NFL draft compare with the previous drafts? What kind of NFL careers will Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, 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

6… 1983: John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Darrell Green

4… 1952: Les Richter, Ollie Matson, Hugh McElhenny, Frank Gifford

4… 1957: Paul Hornung, Len Dawson, Jim Brown, Jim Parker

4… 1961: Mike Ditka, Jimmy Johnson, Herb Adderly, Bob Lilly

4… 1964: Bob Brown, Charley Taylor, Carl Eller, Paul Warfield

4… 1967: Bob Griese, Floyd Little, Alan Page, Gene Upshaw

4… 1989: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders

3… 1965: Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath

3… 1969: O.J. Simpson, Joe Greene, Roger Wehrli

3… 1978: Earl Campbell, James Lofton, Ozzie Newsome

3… 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 5 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.

First Round: 36

Second Round: 7

Third Round: 7

Fourth Round: 2

Fifth Round: 1

Sixth Round or later: 7

Undrafted: 4 (Jack Butler, John Randle, Emmitt Thomas, Warren Moon)

Drafted in the Supplemental Draft: 1 (Steve Young)

No NFL draft: 2 (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

#245 (18th Round) Chris Hanburger

#203 (8th Round) Richard Dent

#192 (7th Round) Shannon Sharpe

#182 (7th Round) Rayfield Wright

#105 (4th Round) Harry Carson

#102 (13th Round) Nick Buoniconti

Did you know? 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),  Aikman (1989), John Elway (1983) and Ron Yary (1968)

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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3 responses

  1. It’s amazing when you think about it that almost a quarter of the teams in the NFL drafted a Hall of Famer that year. Unbelievable.

    1. Great point! Especially when you consider that just drafting a “good” player is such a crapshoot. To draft a player, have him stay with that team his whole carer, and then retire and get elected to the Hall of Fame is incredibly rare! Thanks for reading the blog TaiwanMike.

      Jerry

      1. I’m just happy that one of them was the Bills, even though he took a little three-year detour.

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