Joe Montana, Jerry Rice headline best draft picks for 49ers

Joe Montana went from being a third-round draft pick in 1979 to a three-time Super Bowl MVP with the 49ers. Rod Hanna/USA TODAY Sports

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have selected 1,003 players in their 71-year history. Here's a look at the best draft picks by position for the 49ers:


Quarterback: Joe Montana, third round, No. 82 overall in 1979 -- Long before Tom Brady established himself as one of the greatest draft bargains in league history, there was Montana, who many believed didn't fit the prototype of a franchise quarterback. After the 49ers stole him in the third round, Montana staked his claim to being the best quarterback in NFL history, going 4-0 in Super Bowls with three MVPs, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions on football's biggest stage.

Running back: Frank Gore, third round, No. 65 overall in 2005 -- With apologies to greats such as Roger Craig and Joe Perry, Gore is the standard-bearer for 49ers runners. He was a bargain at his draft spot, then put together a career in which he went to five Pro Bowls and posted eight 1,000-yard seasons with the Niners. He owns franchise records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and is beloved by the 49ers faithful for his consistent, professional approach.

Wide receiver: Jerry Rice, first round, No. 16 overall in 1985 -- Perhaps the greatest player in NFL history regardless of position, all Rice did after the Niners drafted him was go on to break every meaningful receiving record the league has. Even before it became a pass-happy league, Rice set the bar so high in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns that his records might never fall.

Tight end: Vernon Davis, first round, No. 6 overall in 2006 -- One of the tight ends who helped redefine the position with his combination of speed and athleticism, Davis went to a pair of Pro Bowls and led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2009. He also had a knack for coming up big in the team's run of three straight NFC title game appearances, putting up a total of seven touchdowns and hitting 100 or more receiving yards four times in eight postseason games.

Tackle: Bob St. Clair, third round, No. 32 overall in 1953 -- Tough call between St. Clair and Joe Staley, but St. Clair gets the edge for now. He played his entire 11-year career for his hometown team, earning five Pro Bowl berths, five first-team All-Pro nods and a spot on the NFL's 1950s all-decade team on his way to enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Guard: Guy McIntyre, third round, No. 73 overall in 1984 -- One of the lynchpins of the 49ers dynasty in the mid-80s and early 90s, McIntyre went to five Pro Bowls and made three All-Pro teams for his combination of toughness and athleticism. He was a part of three Super Bowl champions.

Center: Jesse Sapolu, 11th round, No. 289 overall in 1983 -- As one of the most underrated draft picks in franchise history, Sapolu also spent time at guard. Regardless of position, Sapolu was an integral part of four Super Bowl title-winning teams. He made the Pro Bowl in 1993 and 1994 and was an All-Pro in 1994 and 1995.


End: Charles Haley, fourth round, No. 96 overall in 1986 -- Haley is one of the league's all-time winners, claiming two Super Bowls with the Niners before grabbing three more rings with the Dallas Cowboys. He had two stints with the 49ers, playing the hybrid elephant position for George Seifert, and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Tackle: Leo Nomellini, first round, No. 11 overall in 1950 -- The first draft pick in franchise history was also one of the greatest. "The Lion" played his entire career for the Niners, going to 10 Pro Bowls and earning nine All-Pro acknowledgements on his way to a spot on the NFL's 50th-anniversary team. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969.

Linebacker: Dave Wilcox, third round, No. 29 overall in 1964 -- This was an extremely difficult choice with the likes of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman among the many worthy of this spot. But Wilcox is also a Hall of Famer with seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro honors on his resume.

Cornerback: Jimmy Johnson, first round, No. 6 overall in 1961 -- Yet another Hall of Famer on this list, Johnson spent all 16 years of his career with the Niners, making five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams as well as landing a spot on the NFL's 1970s all-decade team. He finished his career with 47 interceptions.

Safety: Ronnie Lott, first round, No. 8 overall in 1981 -- Perhaps the most decorated defender in team history, Lott won four Super Bowls, went to 10 Pro Bowls, was on the all-decade team for the 1980s and 1990s and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.


Kicker: Tommy Davis, 11th round, No. 128 overall in 1957 -- Davis went to two Pro Bowls and spent his entire career with the Niners. Along the way, he set records for consecutive extra points made and also had a career punting average of 44.7 yards, which ranked second in NFL history at the time of his retirement.

Punter: Andy Lee, sixth round, No. 188 overall in 2004 -- From the time he was drafted until he departed in 2014, Lee was consistently among the best punters in the league. He went to three Pro Bowls and matched each with a spot on the All-Pro team. He holds franchise records for punting yards and his 46.3 yards-per-punt average currently ranks ninth in NFL history.