The NFL’s draft class of 2004 has produced a number of phenomenal quarterbacks, and many argue that it’s the best quarterback class in history. Almost nine seasons later, four of the first five quarterbacks drafted that day have become Pro Bowlers. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Schaub are all products of that historical draft. Together the four of them have accounted for 103,396 yards, 654 touchdown passes, and an average passer rating of 90.63 during the regular season—as well as four Super Bowl titles.
Manning was drafted first overall in the 2004 by the San Diego Chargers even though Archie Manning made it clear his son had no intentions of playing for lowly San Diego. The Chargers traded Manning to the New York Giants for Rivers, the fourth overall pick in the draft, as well as an additional third-round pick and two picks in the 2005 draft. When the trade was finalized, the Giants received Manning, and the San Diego Chargers received Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Shawne Merriman, and Roman Oben.
The trade worked out exceptionally well for the Giants though Manning has enjoyed the most success out of the four quarterbacks so far in his career. He has two Super Bowl championships, as well as two Super Bowl MVP awards, and has developed into the most respected fourth-quarter passer in the NFL. Manning and the Giants are currently sitting atop their division with a 5–2 record looking to make another run at a Super Bowl.
Although San Diego hasn’t enjoyed the postseason success that the Giants have enjoyed, the Manning/Rivers trade worked out well for the Chargers also. Rivers has established himself as a premier quarterback in the NFL with a career QB rating of 94.9 and four Pro Bowl selections.
The Manning/Rivers trade was clearly beneficial for both teams. San Diego seemed to get the better end of the deal early on. Not only did the Chargers get a great quarterback, but they also received an excellent linebacker (Merriman) and kicker (Kaeding) through the trade. But New York came out on top. Without the stellar play of Manning, and a little fourth-quarter magic, the Giants wouldn’t have won either one of their recent Super Bowls.
The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick that year. Since arriving in Pittsburgh, Big Ben has helped lead the Steelers to seven winning seasons in eight years and has two Super Bowl championships as well. Roethlisberger has two Pro Bowl appearances to go along with his Super Bowl rings and boasts impressive career statistics with 28,344 passing yards and 176 touchdowns.
Schaub was drafted in the third-round of the 2004 draft by Atlanta who traded him to the Texans in 2007. Since arriving in Houston, Schaub’s production has grown enormously. He enjoyed the best season of his career in 2009 when he led the league in passing yards, was elected to the Pro Bowl, and won the Pro Bowl MVP. Schaub is once again enjoying a Pro Bowl caliber season and hopes to lead 6–1 Texans to a coveted Super Bowl championship.
The 1983 NFL Draft class that boasts John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, and Ken O’Brien has long been thought of as the best quarterback draft class in history. These four amassed 25 Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles in 54 combined seasons. Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, and Schaub have accumulated nine Pro Bowl appearances, and four Super Bowl titles in 32 combined seasons in the NFL.
All four quarterbacks from the 2004 draft are still in the prime of their careers and more accolades are sure to follow. The class of the 2004 NFL Draft has provided NFL fans everywhere with high quality play and it will be very unlikely that any other draft class after them will ever enjoy the success that these four have accomplished and will accomplish on the field.
Chris Hunt is a sports writer who resides in Charlotte, N.C.