Which quarterback draft class do you think is the best of all time? The class of 1983 is often regarded as the best of all time, and it featured players like John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino being selected in the first round. After that, there was the draft in 2004, which resulted in the selection of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger inside the first 11 picks of the draft. Nevertheless, the 2012 NFL Draft is where the signal-callers who are poised to become the first QB class to collectively earn more than $1 billion in their careers were selected. This will make the current crop of quarterbacks the highest-paid in the history of the NFL.
There was a lot of talent at the top of the quarterback class of 2012, but there wasn’t much else. The Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was a once-in-a-generation talent and the top quarterbacking prospect since Peyton Manning more than a decade earlier. And the winner of the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III, lit up the field whenever he had possession of the ball.
However, after that, the choices didn’t appear to be that appealing. There was a quarterback from Michigan State with a weak arm, a converted wide receiver from Texas A&M, an old guy from Oklahoma State, a short signal-caller from Wisconsin who was better at baseball, two tall youngsters from Arizona and Arizona State who couldn’t move, and a quarterback from Arizona and Arizona State who couldn’t move.
In the end, everyone of these quarterbacks was selected in the draft, and Luck and RGIII turned out to be outstanding. Griffin’s career was derailed by a knee injury that he sustained during his rookie year, and he tried to come back too soon the next year. And at the peak of his career, after only six seasons, Luck made the decision to call it quits.
Nevertheless, every single one of those damaged goods quarterbacks spent numerous seasons playing in the NFL. Although they did not all achieve greatness, each one of them made (at least) tens of millions of dollars over their careers.
Those quarterbacks were Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles and Brock Osweiler, Russell Wilson, and Kirk Cousins, according to the descriptions given above.
This class as a whole (including Ryan Lindley, B.J. Coleman, and Chandler Harnish) has a combined total of 767 games played in the NFL, 44 games played in the postseason, 20 Pro Bowl appearances, and two Super Bowl victories.
This group’s total career earnings as of the offseason of the 2023 NFL season came to a total of $893 million.
This places them just $3.4 million behind the highest-earning quarterback draft class of all time, the illustrious Class of 2004, which included Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger, along with other high earners in the NFL such as Matt Schaub and Luke McCown.
However, although the whole Class of 2004 will be retired in 2023, the Class of 2012 will still have three active quarterbacks (and highly paid ones) in Wilson, Cousins, and Tannehill, and maybe a fourth if Foles finds a new team to play for during the offseason following his release from the Indianapolis Colts.
Tannehill has $27 million left on his current deal, Cousins has $30 million, and Wilson has a staggering $239 million, but in all likelihood, it’s more like $123 million. Right now, Wilson has a whopping $239 million left on his deal.
The terms of these contracts will ensure that the quarterback draft class of 2012 earns more money than the class of 2004 did during the following season. And when everything is said and done, this group of quarterbacks will be the first draft class to cross the $1 billion mark in lifetime earnings. This will make them the first of their kind.
Not bad for a draft class in which the top two quarterbacks retired within the first six seasons of their careers.