AFC East prevalent in QB class of 1983

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
4:10
PM ET
Most experts agree that the NFL draft's most talented quarterback class was in 1983. Three Hall of Fame signal-callers came from that group in the first round, and ESPN's "30 for 30" series did a tremendous job documenting it Tuesday night.

A total of six quarterbacks were taken in the first round, with four AFC East teams drafting the position. Half of the division landed Hall of Famers and the other half whiffed.

Here is a recap of the first round of the 1983 draft for the AFC East:
  • The Bills drafted Jim Kelly No. 14 overall. He went on to lead Buffalo to four Super Bowls and became the franchise's all-time leading passer. The Bills dominated the AFC East and won the AFC from 1990-93 but came up short each time in the Super Bowl. Kelly is a staple in Buffalo and still lives there.
  • The Patriots drafted Tony Eason one pick after Kelly, at No. 15 overall. His career highlight was helping to lead New England to the Super Bowl during the 1985 season. But Eason was mostly a bust and only reached double figures in touchdown passes three times. He would have an injury-plagued career and posted a 28-23 record in as a starter in right seasons.
  • The Jets drafted Ken O'Brien No. 24 overall. Jets fans were disappointed that the team passed on Dan Marino for O'Brien -- and they were correct in their assessment. But O'Brien had a decent career that included two Pro Bowls, and he was actually 8-7 head-to-head against Marino during their AFC East rivalry in the 1980s and early 1990s. But O'Brien could never come close to matching Marino's overall numbers and victories. O'Brien was 50-59-1 as a starter in his career.
  • Fortunately for the Dolphins, Miami landed Marino at No. 27, the second-to-last pick of the first round. Marino went to a very good Dolphins team and a Hall of Fame coach in Don Shula. The pair turned out to be the second-winningest quarterback-coach combination of all time, trailing only New England's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Marino's super-quick release and arm was one of the best ever. But like Kelly, Marino never won a Super Bowl.
  • The old Baltimore Colts were also in the AFC East in 1983. They drafted quarterback John Elway No. 1 overall, and you know the rest: Elway did not want to play for Baltimore and threatened to play baseball. As a result, the Colts traded Elway to the Denver Broncos, where he went to five Super Bowls, won two titles and had the most accomplished career of this famed quarterback class.

It's mind-boggling to think of the possibilities with every AFC East team drafting a quarterback in 1983.

What if the Jets took Marino? What if the Bills passed on Kelly and he went to New England one pick later?

The history of the AFC East would've been entirely different.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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