Pro Football Draft History: The 1980s

The 1980sThe NFL again fended off competition from a rival league as the United States Football League attempted to tap into the talent pool in the mid-1980s. Perhaps the highlight of the decade, draft wise, came in 1983 when a group of college quarterbacks dominated the first round of that year's draft.

Select among the years below to see more in-depth coverage of that year's draft:

1980The Oakland Raiders used their second round choice on Penn State linebacker Matt Millen. Currently the Lions’ President and CEO, Millen starred for the Raiders, 49ers, and Redskins during his career that lasted through the 1991 season.
1981The Kansas City Chiefs selected running back Joe Delaney in the second round. The Northwestern Louisiana State product rushed for 1,000 yards as a rookie and added another 380 yards in the 1982 strike-shortened season. Delaney tragically drowned just prior to the '83 season.
1982Taken in the seventh round by Buffalo, kicker Gary Anderson never played for the Bills but became the NFL’s all-time leading scorer while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Minnesota Vikings.
1983While this draft is most remembered for the group of quarterbacks selected, there was a good crop of offensive linemen taken in the first round -- Chris Hinton, G, Broncos; Jim Covert, T, Bears; Bruce Matthews, T, Oilers; Dave Rimington, C, Bengals; and Don Mosebar, T, Raiders.
1984After having three picks in the first round, the Cincinnati Bengals were on a roll when they tapped quarterback Boomer Esiason in the second round with the 38th pick overall.
1985Los Angeles Rams drafted Boston College quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie in the 11th round.
1986Apparently the New Orleans Saints were looking to improve their rushing attack as the team selected four running backs in the draft - Dalton Hilliard, Rueben Mayes, Barry Word, and Gill Fenerty.
1987Defense is what the doctor ordered for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Highlighting the list for the Steelers were defensive backs Rod Woodson and Thomas Everett, and linebackers Hardy Nickerson and Greg Lloyd.
1988The Phoenix Cardinals drafted Ohio State punter Tom Tupa in the third round. Tupa, as a member of the Cleveland Browns in 1994, holds the distinction of being the first person in NFL history to score a two-point conversion in a regular season game.
1989Through trades, the Bears ended up with 20 draft picks in the 12-round draft including first rounders Donnell Woolford and Trace Armstrong.


1980s Draft Notes


 The emphasis on scouting became even stronger during the 1980s as the value of franchises greatly increased. Team’s investments in talent turned out to be ever so vital to their success.

 Six quarterbacks taken in the first round highlighted the 1983 NFL Draft. The group became known as the “Class of 1983” and the passers combined to dominate the NFL’s offensive attack for more than a decade following their selection in the draft.

 The famed “Class of 1983” consisted of six quarterbacks taken in the first round. 1. John Elway, Colts; 7. Todd Blackledge, Chiefs; 14. Jim Kelly, Bills; 15. Tony Eason, Patriots; 24. Ken O’Brien, Jets; 27. Dan Marino, Dolphins.

 Other notables taken that same year include three other future Hall of Famers:  running back Eric Dickerson (#2), offensive lineman Bruce Matthews (#9) and cornerback Darrell Green (#28).