San Francisco 49ers 10 Best NFL Draft Picks

    Who are theSan Francisco 49ers' best NFL draft picks? Here are the top 10 in franchise history.

    February 26, 2016


    Who are the San Francisco best NFL draft picks? Here are the top 10 in franchise history.


    Daily Draft: San Francisco 49ers Greatest NFL Draft Picks

    Coming up with the ten greatest San Francisco draft picks is a big tougher than it might seem.

    Integral parts of the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s had a hard time making the list with so many Hall of Fame talents from the 1950s and 1960s to choose from. And even getting into the Hall doesn’t necessarily assure a spot in the top ten – Hugh McElhenny should’ve been on it – but good luck trying to knock any of the players below off of it.

    These aren’t the greatest players in 49er history – Steve Young would be on that. These are the ten greatest draft picks made by the franchise, with the following criteria.

    Did the player do most of his big things for San Francisco? How long was he a part of the team at a high level? How many All-Pro teams did he make and how many Pro Bowls did he go to?

    It’s certainly among the most special top ten lists.

    1. WR Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State

    1985, 1st round, 16th pick overall
    Pick Before: TE Ethan Horton, North Carolina, drafted by Kansas City
    Pick After: DT Kevin Brooks, Michigan, drafted by Dallas

    Jim Brown might be considered the greatest player in NFL history, but no one produced at a higher level longer than Rice, who spent 16 season in San Francisco catching 1,281 passes for 19,247 yards and 176 touchdowns, making ten All-Pro teams with 13 trips to the Pro Bowl.

    On the way to the Hall of Fame, Rice was the 1987 NFL MVP, the 1988 Super Bowl MVP, and came up with 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons after amassing 927 as a rookie.

    Much has been made about the 1985 NFL Draft that allowed Rice to slip to the 16th pick, but it’s hard to argue with Buffalo taking Bruce Smith with the first pick or Minnesota taking Chris Doleman with the fourth – both ended up in the Hall of Fame, but after Rice was selected, no one else in the first round ended up playing ten years or more.

    One pick before Rice, North Carolina running back-turned-tight end Ethan Horton lasted one year in Kansas City before turning into a Pro Bowl performer for the Raiders. He finished his eight-year career with 212 catches for 2,360 yards and 17 scores. Rice cranked up 2,497 yards and 18 yards in his first two seasons.

    Yeah, the pick worked out okay.

    2. QB Joe Montana, Notre Dame

    1979, 3rd round, 82nd pick overall
    Pick Before: C Mike Wellman, Kansas, drafted by Los Angeles Rams
    Pick After: DE Ken Johnson, Knoxville, drafted by Buffalo

    Jack Thompson, Phil Simms, and Steve Fuller. Those were the three quarterbacks taken ahead of Montana. Forever known for his cool, he got through two rocky years before he took the team to the 1981 Super Bowl as the true jumping off point to his legendary career.

    Forever known for his cool, calm demeanor leading the way to four Super Bowls, he threw for over 35,000 yards for San Francisco with 244 touchdowns and 123 interceptions, but lost in history was how good an athlete he was, running for close to 1,600 career yards and 20 scores.

    The Hall of Fame was a slam dunk for the seven-time Pro Bowler – with one more with Kansas City – named to three All-Pro teams with two Super Bowl MVPs and the league’s MVP in 1989 and 1990.

    3. DB Ronnie Lott, USC

    1981, 1st round, 8th pick overall
    Pick Before: LB Hugh Green, Pitt, drafted by Tampa Bay
    Pick After: LB Mel Owens, USC, drafted by Los Angele Rams

    That worked out well. The 49ers drafted Lott in the first round of the 1981 draft, took Eric Wright in the second round and Carlton Williamson in the third, stepping up as rookies on the way to the Super Bowl. Lott turned out to be the all-timer and one of the greatest defensive backs of all-time, making 721 tackles for the team with 51 interceptions before going to the Raiders and Jets. The prototype of a safety after starting out as a corner, he went to nine Pro Bowls in his ten years with the team and was named All-Pro five times.

    4. CB Jimmy Johnson, UCLA

    1961, 1st round, 6th pick overall
    Pick Before: TE Mike Ditka, Pitt, drafted by Chicago
    Pick After: RB Tom Matte, Ohio State, drafted by Baltimore

    How’s that for a three-pick stretch in 1961? Mike Ditka (Hall of Famer), Jimmy Johnson (Hall of Famer), and Tom Matte. Johnson played 16 years at corner for the 49ers starting a whopping 200 games as a rock-solid starter. He was named All-Pro four years in a row from 1969 to 1972, and was a Pro Bowler in 1974, too. No, he didn’t get as many all-star honors as others on the list, but here’s where longevity matters, and again, he’s in the Hall of Fame.

    5. LB Patrick Willis, Ole Miss

    2007, 1st round, 11th pick overall
    Pick Before: DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville, drafted by Houston
    Pick After: RB Marshawn Lynch, California, drafted by Buffalo

    While he might have retired early in the midst of a special career, he’s still destined for the Hall of Fame after making 732 tackles with 20.5 sacks in his eight years. Phenomenal from the start with a career-high 135 stops, he went to the first of seven straight Pro Bowls earning the first of five All-Pro honors.

    6. WR Terrell Owens, Tennessee-Chattanooga

    1996, 3rd round, 89th pick overall
    Pick Before: DT J.C. Price, Virginia Tech, drafted by Carolina
    Pick After: C Mike Flanagan, UCLA, drafted by Green Bay

    Owens is a Hall of Famer – he’s just not in yet checking ranking second in all-time receiving yards with 15,934 along with 153 touchdowns on 1,078 catches. While he put up big numbers for Philadelphia and Dallas – and was okay for Buffalo and Cincinnati – he did most of his big work over his eight years in San Francisco going to five of his seven Pro Bowl trips and earning three of his five All-Pro nods.

    7. DT Leo Nomellini, Minnesota

    1950, 1st round, 11th pick overall
    Pick Before: FB Fred Morrison, Ohio State, drafted by Chicago
    Pick After: DT Stan West, Oklahoma, drafted by Los Angeles Rams

    He might have started his career late – he was a 26-year-old rookie – but he was very, very good up until almost 40. The Hall of Fame defensive tackle was as good and as steady as any interior lineman of the 1950s. A 6-3, 259-pound tough guy and interior pass rusher, he went to nine Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro a whopping six times.

    8. QB John Brodie, Stanford

    1957, 1st round, 3rd pick overall
    Pick Before: HB Jon Arnett, USC, drafted by Los Angeles Rams
    Pick After: WR Ron Kramer, Michigan, drafted by Green Bay

    Steve Young might have turned into a Hall of Famer once the 49ers got him, and Joe Montana might forever be the fan favorite, but Brodie was the franchise 1957 to 1973 playing 17 years throwing for 31,548 yards and 214 touchdowns, going to two Pro Bowls with an All-Pro nod in 1970. His teams might have been mediocre, but he had his moments during a long, long run.

    9. LB Dave Wilcox, Oregon

    1964, 3rd round, 29th pick overall
    Pick Before: TE Jim Kelly, Notre Dame, drafted by Pittsburgh
    Pick After: FB Pat Batten, Hardin-Simmons, drafted by Detroit

    An 11-year 49er at a high level, Wilcox went to six straight Pro Bowls from 1969 to 1973 along with his first trip in 1966. A two-time All-Pro, he was as reliable and dependable as any linebacker in the 1960s and early 1970s, earning a spot in the Hall of Fame.

    10. DE Charles Haley, James Madison

    1986, 4th round, 96th pick overall
    Pick Before: LB Ty Allert, Texas, drafted by San Diego
    Pick After: LB Tommy Taylor, UCLA, drafted by San Diego

    Granted, he spent half his career in Dallas earning All-Pro honors in 1994, his best years were with the 49ers. A little known pass rusher might have been a spot starter as a rookie, but he showed glimpses of his greatness with 12 sacks finishing with 66.5 in San Francisco. The Hall of Famer went to three Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro in 1990 with a career-high 16 sacks.

    MORE: San Francisco 49ers All-Time NFL Draft Team

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