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What's the hype - 1983 Draft versus the 2018 Draft

Dick Bauerle, former WGR on-air host, compares the hype of the 1983 John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino draft to the highly anticpated 2018 NFL Draft

March 21, 2018 - 11:07 am

For the next few weeks the HOT, HOT, HOT topic for many Buffalo Bills fans is the upcoming NFL Draft, and the Bills’ ongoing quest for a franchise quarterback. It was supposed to happen this year, with THIS Draft being compared to the one in 1983 for quarterbacks. The debate is already raging among fans and media alike: pay a lot to move up or stay at 12 and build up other areas of the team. I’d say opinions are split at 50/50 according to our listener feedback - that ratio changing on any given day.

This draft, “rich” with possible franchise quarterbacks, is being compared by the “experts” to the fabled 1983 NFL Draft. But let’s take a look back.

Going into that draft, the only projected sure fire “superstar” quarterback was John Elway. There were others worthy of mention, but none had the “hype” of Elway, who was still drafted first overall by the Baltimore Colts, despite telling them in advance he would never play for them. That was the big story going into the 1983 NFL Draft. Not Kelly, not Marino. They were merely a back story in a sea of other players outside of Elway. Elway kept his word, ultimately ending up in Denver and eventually the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Let’s examine what happened with the other quarterbacks of note in that draft.

The next guy selected was (drum roll, please!): Todd Blackledge at No. 7 by the Kansas City Chiefs! Really? The Bills took the next quarterback at 14, Jim Kelly. Let’s note that Kelly was selected AFTER they had picked tight end Tony Hunter from Notre Dame at pick 12! Next up was Tony Eason at 15 by the New England Patriots, followed by Ken O’ Brien at 24 to the New York Jets. The biggest shocker: Dan Marino lasted until pick 27 because of rumors of “character issues”, not to mention a pretty average senior season.   

But in 2018, we find this much heralded crop of “franchise” quarterbacks all expected to be picked within the first five picks and being constantly compared to the quarterbacks drafted in 1983. This year’s big four of Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield are followed by Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph, who are expected to be picked later in the first or even early in the second round.

The hype in 1983 wasn’t even close to all of the discussions happening with this 2018 draft class of quarterbacks. Just look at where Hall Of Famers Kelly and Marino were picked. Not even in the top-10.

Adding to this year’s drama is the fact that the Bills had, seemingly, positioned themselves to trade up again from 12 and grab one of the “big four”. The Jets just blocked them from doing that responsibly. The Bills can still move up, but it will cost them plenty. Maybe even a chance at a winning season in 2018 if they do.

Going back again to 1983, Elway, Kelly, Marino, and Eason all played in at least one Super Bowl. Blackledge is considered to be one of the Chiefs’ all-time biggest busts, while O’Brien was a steady, but mostly unspectacular quarterback for many years with the Jets. Eason did little to nothing after guiding the Patriots to the Super Bowl in his second year. He was out of the NFL just a couple of unproductive years after that. Blackledge, the second quarterback taken, did virtually nothing noteworthy.

So that leads us back to the big question: are Darnold, Rosen, Allen, or Mayfield “sure things” worth all of the hype, comparisons to 1983, and possibly sacrificing a Bills’ season to get the next Elway, Kelly, or Marino? Or, will they end up drafting another Eason, Blackledge, or O’Brien?

The last time a quarterback draft class was compared to the quarterbacks of 1983 was in 2004. The names: Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning (who ironically pulled an “Elway” on the San Diego Chargers), and Ben Roethlisberger. A pretty good class, but personally I’d take Elway, Kelly, or Marino over any of them without hesitation.

One thing is certain - this 2018 NFL Draft is truly the most hyped up and talked about draft I’ve ever seen in my over 50 years of watching the NFL. So much more so than the 1983 NFL Draft, which was all about the drama surrounding Elway. In 2018, the drama is all about the quarterbacks 24/7, with the Draft still a few weeks away. The debate will continue until the last week in April, or if the Bills make another move up in the draft order prior to that.

If the Bills stay at 12th overall, I know at least one quarterback who will be very elated with the outcome of this draft. His name: A.J. McCarron.

I wonder where he would have been picked in 1983 with two National College Championships on his resume?

- Dick Bauerle - Former WGR On Air personality

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