By Evan Bleier / April 22, 2019

What Was the Best NFL Quarterback Class of This Millennium?

Hint: Draft-day bust JaMarcus Russell is not involved

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants and Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants and Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Headlined by first overall pick JaMarcus Russell (Oakland Raiders), the names in the 2007 quarterback class are not exactly inspiring (no offense to Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, Trent Edwards or the immortal Tyler Thigpen).

The names in the league’s 2004 class are another matter entirely.

Though the class includes NFL nobodies such as Andy Hall (No. 185), Jeff Smoker (No. 201), Casey Bramlet (No. 218) and Bradlee Van Pelt (No. 250), it also counts Eli Manning (No. 1), Philip Rivers (No. 4) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) as members. 

The presence of those three players, all of whom are still playing in the NFL (albeit at differing skill levels), makes the 2004 quarterback class the best one of this century, according to an analysis by NFL.com.

The 2004 class does include a few other guys who briefly played in the league in J.P. Losman and Luke McCown as well as another one, Matt Schaub, who had limited success as a starter and is still a backup for the Atlanta Falcons. 

But it’s clearly the presence of presumed Hall of Famers Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger (who have four Super Bowl wins between them), that makes 2004 “the gold standard for quarterback classes of the 21st century.”

“The trio’s 652 regular-season starts also tell the tale of ironman passers who can be counted on to dress game after game and year after year by their teams,” according to NFL.com. “If this class came around every year, the league would have too many quality passers.”

The 2012 class, which included Andrew Luck (No. 1), Robert Griffin III (No. 2), Ryan Tannehill (No. 8), Russell Wilson (No. 75), Nick Foles (No. 88), Kirk Cousins (No. 102) and Case Keenum (undrafted), came in second on the publication’s list. 

In terms of this year’s class, the first members of which will be drafted starting on Thursday evening in Nashville, Oklahoma product Kyler Murray is presumed to be the top prospect and may go as high as No. 1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals. Other notable names who may go off the board in the first round include Duke quarterback Daniel Jones and Ohio State signal-caller Dwayne Haskins.

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