Throughout their illustrious history, the 49ers have selected some of the greatest players of all time in the draft. From Joe Montana to Patrick Willis they have shown year after year that they know how to select great talent. Talent will only take the player so far, it is the organization which has to help mold them into a great player. Similarly, these players were selected at the right time for the 49ers to help the franchise win. These players were selected at just the right time in the 49ers history to become the playmakers the 49ers envisioned when they were selected in the draft. Let’s take a look at the greatest players the 49ers have selected at each position. So let’s take a look at some of the greatest 49ers draft picks.
LT- Joe Staley (2007-Present)
Staley has been a stalwart on the offensive line since he was drafted in 2007. He has made six Pro Bowls and was a key reason why the 49ers offense improved in 2017. He has protected the blind side of a number of quarterbacks over the years and has endured a number of poor seasons for the 49ers, yet he has played at a high level year after year. Time will tell if he will be welcomed into the Hall of Fame but no matter what, he has won over the hearts of the 49ers faithful with his consistency and leadership.
LG- Randy Cross (1976-1988)
Cross played both guard and center over the course of his career but he played mostly guard while leading the 49ers to three Super Bowl titles. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and was First-team All-Pro three times.
C- Jesse Sapolu (1983-1997)
While he was only invited to two Pro Bowls, it is his consistency which earns him his place on this list. He was selected in the 11th round and fought his way into the starting lineup for four Super Bowl victories. He played both guard and center in his career and split those Super Bowl victories evenly between those two positions.
RG- Guy McIntyre (1984-1996)
He was excellent in the trenches and was invited to five Pro Bowls. He won three Super Bowls with the 49ers and paved the way for their great running game.
RT- Bob St. Clair (1953-1963)
He was a dominant force in the trenches and had a knack for blocking field goals in the era of two-way players. He blocked 10 field goals in 1956 but his appetite was not only reserved for blocking kicks, it was also for raw meat. He became a legend in San Francisco due to his nine First or Second-All-Pro selections as well as his insistence of eating meat right out of the freezer. The meat he liked most was defensive linemen. He devoured opposing linemen and paved the way for a terrific offense.
TE- Vernon Davis (2006-Present)
He won over the hearts of the 49ers Faithful by making the Catch III in the 2011 playoffs against the New Orleans Saints but he had been making plays before that career defining moment. He set an NFL record for tight ends with 13 touchdowns in a season. He was invited to two Pro Bowls and was a great weapon in the passing game.
WR- Jerry Rice (1985-2004)
Possibly the greatest football player of all time, he set the standard for future wide receivers. By the time of his retirement, he held many NFL records including most receiving yards and most touchdowns scored in a career. He made 13 Pro Bowls and was a First-team All Pro 10 times. He also led the 49ers to three Super Bowl victories and was named Super Bowl MVP in 1988. While some of his records have been broken, it is becoming increasingly obvious that a large number of his records will never be touched. It is due to this fact that he is possibly the greatest draft pick in the 49ers history.
WR- Terrell Owens (1996-2010)
Jerry Rice’s successor did not disappoint and proved to be quite a compliment to the legend. He retired with 15,934 receiving yards and 153 receiving touchdowns. Both of those stats rank in the top three in NFL history. He was finally voted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.
FB- Roger Craig (1983-1993)
While he played both fullback and halfback in his career, he truly showed his athletic ability in the full back position. In 1985, while still a fullback, he became the first player to gain 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. Since then only Marshall Faulk has reached that feat. Craig was selected to four Pro Bowls and was a perfect player for the West Coast offense the 49ers were running during their dynasty years.
HB- Frank Gore (2005-Present)
Despite two career threatening knee injuries while in college, Gore defied the odds and is now ranked in the top five for career rushing yards in NFL history. He has proven time and again that consistency matters. He has been on some pretty directionless teams yet he keeps on gaining yards as well as admirers throughout the NFL.
QB- Joe Montana (1979-1994)
Nicknamed “Joe Cool” for his calm composure in tense situations, he made winning four Super Bowls look easy. He had many memorable last minute comebacks in the biggest games. There was the last minute drive of 92 yards to win Super Bowl XXIII. Who can forget the clinic he displayed against the Dallas Cowboys Doomsday Defense in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. These are just two of the most famous scoring drives in his career and they are engraved in NFL lore. Together with Bill Walsh he created a dynasty and made winning a standard in San Francisco.
RE- Cedrick Hardman (1970-1981)
He was a terrific pass rusher in the early 1970s. While he was only selected to two Pro Bowls, his presence on the defensive line greatly influenced a formidable defense nicknamed the Gold Rush. This was a time when the 49ers had one of the best pass rushes in the NFL and he was a key reason why they dominated opposing offenses in the early 1970s.
DT- Leo Nomellini (1950-1963)
He was a terrific two way player and earned All Pro honors as an offensive tackle and a defensive tackle. He also wrestled in the offseason under the name Leo the Lion. He was a dominant presence on the 49ers defense and could easily beat any opponent with brute strength. If he had only played on defense he could have been the best defensive lineman of all time.
LE- Pierce Holt (1988-1995)
He was a part of an excellent draft class which gave the 49ers phenomenal depth during their run of supremacy in the late 1980s. While unsung, he had 15.5 sacks during those two championship seasons. He was only invited to a single Pro Bowl but he proved to be the spark the 49ers defense needed to finally win back to back Super Bowls.
LOLB- Charles Haley (1986-1999)
He was used as a hybrid outside linebacker and defensive end. He played both positions effectively and recorded 100.5 career sacks. He helped the 49ers win back to back Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
LILB- Patrick Willis (2007-2014)
He was invited to the Pro Bowl every year except for his final year in the NFL in 2014. If that is not impressive enough, consider he was selected to either First or Second-team All Pro from 2007-2012. He also earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007. While these accolades are impressive, they do not tell the whole story of the great leader he was for the 49ers defense. He set the tone with fiery pregame speeches as well as big hits. He revived a weak 49ers defense and led them into a three year stretch of dominance between 2011 and 2013 where they reached the NFC Championship Game in each of those years. His presence has been greatly missed since his retirement in the 2015 offseason and the 49ers have been trying to fill that void ever since.
RILB- NaVorro Bowman (2010-Present)
At his peak, he was the best linebacker in the NFL. His best years were 2011-2013 where he racked up tackles at a record pace and powered his way into the hearts of the 49ers Faithful. While his glory years were short-lived, he will never be forgotten in San Francisco.
SOLB- Aldon Smith (2011-2015)
Ultimately a tragic figure, his early sack totals have given him the honor of being on this list. Between 2011 and 2013 he had an astounding 42 sacks. His best season was his 2012 campaign when he had a franchise record 19.5 sacks. While he was only invited to one Pro Bowl what he did for the 49ers between 2011 and 2013 will be embedded in the memories of the Faithful for years. His career was sadly cut short due to personal issues. The 49ers have been looking for a pass rushing presence of his caliber ever since they released him in 2015.
CB- Jimmie Johnson (1960-1976)
Terrific in man coverage, he had an exceptional 47 career interceptions. He was selected either First or Second-team All Pro 7 times and was invited to five Pro Bowls. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
CB- Eric Wright (1981-1990)
He was part of a great draft class which helped launch the 49ers dynasty of the 1980s. He was invited to two Pro Bowls and had 18 career interceptions. He was also selected as a First-team All Pro twice.
SS- Dashon Goldson (2007-2016)
He was the enforcer for the 49ers defense and has the penalties for proof. After years of hard hits and big plays he finally made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012. Teams thought twice before throwing in his direction because of how physical he was with opposing receivers.
FS- Ronnie Lott (1981-1994)
He was a key reason why the 49ers won four Super Bowls in the 1980s. He was invited to 10 Pro Bowls and was First-team All-Pro 8 times. He put fear into the hearts of his opponents with his hard hits and opportunistic interceptions. He was the heart and soul of the 49ers defense.
Each of these players won over the hearts of the Faithful with their memorable plays. What separates these players from other players in their positions is not their play but their heart. Each of these players gave every ounce of effort they could muster to bring pride and joy to San Francisco. They wanted to bring home the championship and a number of these players were successful in doing so. These players reside in the hearts of the Faithful because of the memories they created. Maybe the 2018 draft class will bring another all time great player to the 49ers. Only time will tell.