There is wide spread agreement that the 1983 NFL draft produced the greatest group of quarterbacks in the history of the sport. John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Three hall-of-famers... enough said.
But, when it comes to the greatest wide receiver class, there is room for debate. Some would say it's the Class of 1985. After all, that class is led by the greatest of all time, Jerry Rice, who was the third receiver taken that year (Al Toon & Eddie Brown) drafted, 16th overall, one pick ahead of the Cowboys (who took DE Kevin Brooks). Andre Reed, 5th all-time in receptions, 8th in yards, and 10th in TD's, was drafted by the Bills in the 4th round. Al Toon led the league in receptions in 1988. Eddie Brown of the Bengals was also a pro-bowler. If you count tight ends as receivers, two of the best in the game, Jay Novacek and Mark Bavaro were also Class of '85. Fellow tight end Ethan Horton was also a pro-bowler.
Others will claim the Class of 1988 is the best. Tim Brown was the top wide receiver taken that year (#6). Brown is 3rd overall in receptions, 2nd in yards, and 6th in TD's. Sterling Sharp was #7 that year, and was neck-in-neck with Rice for the top receiver of the era when his career was cut short in his prime in 1994 with a neck injury. The Cowboys used the 11th pick that year on Michael Irvin. The hall-of-famer retired with three Super Bowl rings. The Class of '88 also included pro-bowl wide receivers Anthony Miller and Brian Blades, and pro-bowl tight ends Keith Jackson and Ferrell Edmunds. Flipper Anderson and Michael Haynes were also drafted in '88. That is an impressive class.
But I say, when all is said and done, the Class of 1996 could blow both of those classes COMBINED out of the water. Keyshawn Johnson was the top pick that year. He retires this year 15th in receptions and 23rd in yards. Pro Bowlers, Terry Glenn (#7), Eric Moulds (#24), Muhsin Muhammad (#43), Joe Horn (#135) and Jermaine Lewis (#153) are all in this class, as well as Amani Toomer, Ricky Dudley and Jay Riemersma. But, the crown jewels of this class are the 19th pick and the 89th pick. Marvin Harrison was the third receiver taken that year, yet he could potentially end his career number one all-time. The 8-time pro-bowler is already 4th in receptions, 6th in yards and 3rd in TD's. His 143 receptions in 2002 is most of all-time. Oh, and that 89th pick? The 12th receiver taken that year is none other than Terrell Owens. T.O. is 17th in receptions, 16th in yards and 4th in TD's. He has 5 pro-bowl appearances and could fight Harrison for the all-time TD receptions title.
As great of a wide receiver draft as it is, 1996 will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth. As a St. Louis native, I sat an watched the Rams, with the 18th pick that year, take a "sure thing" out of LSU named Eddie Kennison. With the 19th pick, the Indianapolis Colts had to settle for Marvin Harrison...