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On This Date in Sports April 26, 1983: The best

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The NFL Draft is held in New York and has become one for the record books. Seven future Hall of Famers were selected in the first round of a quarterback-heavy draft. The headliner is John Elway, a quarterback out of Stanford drafted first overall by the Baltimore Colts. Elway had expressed his refusal to play for the Colts and forced a trade to the Denver Broncos. There were six quarterbacks chosen in the first round, including Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, who would have Hall of Fame careers. 

Few NFL Drafts were as memorable or as historic as the one in 1983. Called the year of the quarterback for the six taken in the first round, it became a draft that would have players that became the core of the NFL over the next 15 years. One-quarter of the 28 players taken in the first round would be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, as the talent pool was deep and took the league to a new level. 

The Baltimore Colts had the first pick but were a dysfunctional franchise. John Elway, an All-American quarterback from Stanford, was rated as the best prospect in the draft. Elway had informed the Colts that he would never agree to play with the team; he also had issues with coach Frank Kush. The Colts ignored the warnings and drafted Elway anyway. The quarterback called a press conference saying that he would play baseball with New York Yankees. The Colts would trade John Elway one week later, receiving offensive lineman Chris Hinton, chosen fourth in the draft, backup quarterback Mark Herrmann, and a first-round pick in the 1984 Draft, which turned into offensive lineman Ron Solt. Elway would lead the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances, winning two in his final seasons, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2004. 

Eric Dickerson was chosen second by the Los Angeles Rams out of SMU. Dickerson quickly became the best rusher in the league and set the single-season record of 2,105 yards in 1984. Eric Dickerson was a perennial All-Pro in the NFL, winning four rushing titles while spending his career with the Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons before retiring in 1993 and becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1999. 

The following two picks were Curt Warner by the Seattle Seahawks and Chris Hinton by the Broncos, who had good starts to their careers. Warner, a running back from Penn State, had three Pro Bowl appearances for Seattle before being slowed down by injuries. While Hinton, a lineman from Northwestern, played in the Pro Bowl seven times after going to the Colts in the trade for Elway. After being selected with the fifth pick, linebacker Billy Ray Smith from Arkansas had a ten-year career with the San Diego Chargers.

Jim Covert, a tackle from Pittsburgh, was taken sixth by the Chicago Bears. He was a vital member of the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl team and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020. Todd Blackledge, the second quarterback taken in the draft out of Penn State, was selected seventh by the Kansas City Chiefs but never was able to have an impact in the NFL. 

With the ninth pick, the Houston Oilers selected Bruce Matthews, a tackle from USC. Matthews played 18 seasons with the Oilers/Tennessee Titans and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2007. The New York Giants picked Terry Kinard tenth out of Clemson. He was a part of their Super Bowl XXI team and played in the 1988 Pro Bowl. 

The next impactful player was Jim Kelly, the third quarterback in the draft, chosen 14th by the Buffalo Bills out of Miami. Kelly initially refused to play in Buffalo instead of joining the Houston Gamblers of the USFL. After the USFL folded, Kelly spent a decade in Buffalo, leading the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. He was later a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2002. 

The fourth quarterback taken in the draft was Tony Eason, selected by the New England Patriots from Illinois with the 15th pick. Eason had some early success, starting Super Bowl XX, but did not have an overly successful NFL career, retiring after two seasons with the New York Jets in 1990. 

Cornerback Leonard Smith, chosen 17th by the St. Louis Cardinals from McNeese State, and Willie Gault, a receiver taken 18th by the Bears out of Tennessee, had solid careers for their teams, with Gault being a top receiver on the Bears' Super Bowl team. 

Joey Browner could one day be the eighth member of the Hall of Fame taken in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft. Chosen by the Minnesota Vikings, Browner, a corner from USC, made it to the Pro Bowl six times and has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame several times, narrowly missing the votes to get in. 

Gary Anderson, a running back from Arkansas, was taken 20th by the San Diego Chargers. Anderson chose to play with the Tampa Bay Bandits and was a star in the USFL. After the USFL folded, Anderson had some success with the Chargers before going to the Buccaneers following a season-long holdout in 1989. 

Pass rusher Gabriel Rivera from Texas A&M was taken 21st by the Pittsburgh Steelers and had a promising rookie season before a car accident derailed his career. The Chargers Gill Byrd, a cornerback from San Jose State, was taken 22nd. Byrd had a solid ten-year career, making it to the Pro Bowl twice. Jim Jeffcoat, a pass rusher from Arizona State, was taken 23rd by the Dallas Cowboys and spent a decade with Dallas, winning two Super Bowls as a veteran leader in the locker. 

A hidden story in the draft was the sudden draft plunge of Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino. Projected before the season as a top-five pick, Marino struggled in his senior season. Despite his struggles, he was a marquee name that fans of the New York Jets coveted. Instead, the Jets selected unknown Ken O'Brien from Cal-Davis. O'Brien would make two Pro Bowls with the Jets and had his moments before fading into obscurity as the fifth quarterback taken in the 1983 NFL Draft. 

A pair of centers went in the next two picks, with the Cincinnati Bengals taking Dave Rimington 25th out of Nebraska. Rimington had an unremarkable NFL career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and spent 13 seasons in the silver and black. The Los Angeles Raiders took Don Mosebar 26th out of USC. 

The Miami Dolphins, after losing Super Bowl XVII, had the 27th pick and had a legend fall in their laps as they picked Dan Marino. Marino would become the greatest player in Dolphins' history, as he set quarterback records and led Miami to a Super Bowl in his second season. Sadly, Marino could not get a ring with the Dolphins, but his passing number was the standard for two decades. Dan Marino has a statue outside their stadium, located on the street, bearing his name. In 2005, Dan Marino was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

The final pick of the first round was Darrell Green, taken by the Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins. Green, taken out of Division II Texas A&I, would spend 20 seasons in Washington, becoming one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history. Darrell Green was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, won two Super Bowls, and won the NFL Man of the Year in 1996. Green had 19 consecutive seasons with an interception and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2008.

From top to bottom, the 1983 NFL Draft was the best in the league's history as nearly every player had an impact, with Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers throughout the first round.