Greatest NFL Draft steals in San Francisco 49ers history
The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books. And now it’s time to take a look back at draft picks of the pastt.
Here, we look at one team in particular, the San Francisco 49ers and detailing their biggest steals in franchise history. After all, aren’t the steals and the busts the most exciting picks to look back upon?
Who exactly are the five biggest steals in San Francisco’s NFL Draft history?
5. Frank Gore
What’s crazy about the 49ers is just how stacked they are in this category. Just for one example, current tight end George Kittle was a fifth-round pick in 2017. If his career continues down this path, it will be hard not to put him on the list.
For now, he’s not there just yet. The No. 5 spot instead belongs to Frank Gore.
San Francisco took the running back in the third round (65th overall) in 2005. He’s turned into one of the greatest in the history of the NFL.
Gore spent 10 seasons with the 49ers, racking up 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns. He added 342 receptions for another 2,883 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Adding in those five years, he’s up to 15,347 yards rushing (third all-time) and 79 touchdowns on his career. He also has 468 receptions for another 3,896 yards and 18 touchdowns in the air. He’s been to five Pro Bowls.
Gore is currently a free agent, but he’s not made any indication retirement is on his mind. And no matter what his 2020 season looks like, he’s one of the greatest running backs of all time. So as a third-round pick of course Gore had to make the list.
4. Dwight Clark
The 49ers selected wide receiver Dwight Clark in the 10th round (249th overall) of the 1979 NFL Draft.
Considering the career he had, it’s surprising to think he was drafted so late. After all, Clark is part of one of the most infamous plays in NFL history, “The Catch.”
Clark spent nine seasons in the NFL, all with San Francisco. In that time, Clark racked up 506 receptions for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns. He won two Super Bowls and was selected to two Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro once.
Clark has obviously gone down in history due to “The Catch.” But it’s not like he wasn’t extremely productive over the course of his career as well. Coming in as a 10th rounder, it would’ve been very easy to assume he would be out of the league in a short amount of time.
Instead, Clark turned himself into one of the greatest wide receivers in franchise history. And how many people are synonymous with a play so well known that it has its own name?
Clark is easily one of the best steals in NFL history, let alone in San Francisco.
3. Jesse Sapolu
Another example of how good the 49ers have been at drafting, in 1983, they selected Jesse Sapolu in the 11th round (289th overall).
The center/guard ended up having one of the best careers an offensive lineman could have.
Sapolu spent 13 seasons in the NFL, playing the entirety of his career with the Niners.
In that time, Sapolu would win four Super Bowls. And in three of them he was a major contributor. The fact that he was such an important player on the team for so long only adds to his resume.
Sapolu was named to the Pro Bowl twice, and probably could have made it on those rosters a few more times.
While he’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is more than deserving of the accolade. Sapolu was one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the franchise, and San Francisco managed to snatch him up in the 11th round. That’s undoubtedly a steal.
2. Terrell Owens
The 49ers selected Terrell Owens in the third round (89th overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft. As anyone that has watched football since then knows, he’s easily one of the greatest wide receivers of all time.
There was nothing Owens couldn’t do on the field. He was fast, ran perfect routes, had great hands and was almost freakishly athletic.
Owens spent eight seasons with the 49ers. In that time, he racked up 592 receptions for 8,572 yards and 81 touchdowns.
He would then go on to spend another seven seasons in the NFL — two with the Philadelphia Eagles, three with the Dallas Cowboys, one with the Buffalo Bills and one with the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the end, he would finish his career with 1,078 receptions (eighth all-time) for 15,934 yards (third all-time) and 153 touchdowns (third all-time).
He made it to six Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro five times. After some controversy, Owens was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Easily amongst the greats at the wide receiver position, the fact that San Francisco got Owens in the third round of the NFL Draft has to be considered an all-time steal.
1. Joe Montana
Somehow, the 49ers topped themselves. In 1979, they used a third round pick (82nd overall) on quarterback Joe Montana.
Montana is considered by quite a few to be the greatest quarterback of all-time, and if not, he’s definitely near the top. He spent 15 seasons in the NFL, 13 with the 49ers (the other two with the Kansas City Chiefs).
In his time with San Francisco, Montana managed a 63.7 competition percentage, passing for 35,124 yards and 244 touchdown passes (123 interceptions). He was also credited with a 100-39 win-loss record.
Montana was also an all-time playoff performer, going 14-5 in the postseason with the 49ers. In that time, he won an impressive four Super Bowls.
The quarterback also managed some success with the Chiefs. And upped his career numbers to 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns (139 interceptions). His final record in the regular season was 117-47 and in the playoffs it was 16-7.
Montana made it to eight Pro Bowls and was a first team All-Pro three times. He also won a Comeback Player of the Year award, an Offensive Player of the Year award, a Bert Bell Player of the Year award and two league MVPs.
Unsurprisingly, Montana was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
One of the greatest players the sport has ever seen. Montana is the biggest steal the 49ers ever had in an NFL Draft, and it’s going to be difficult for the franchise to ever top him or what he brought to the team.
In fact, he’s right near the top of the list of all-time draft steals no matter the team.