49ers draft list: The 10 best yearly classes

The 49ers' 2010 draft class clearly was the team's best in recent years. Each of the team's eight picks made the roster and five started games, giving the Niners hope for positive results for years to come. Could this class one day be considered among the franchise's best drafts ever? Here's the gold standard of 49ers draft classes as NinersDigest goes down the list of the 10 best in team history.

1. 1986: Considered one of the greatest drafts by any team in NFL history, the 49ers maneuvered for extra picks by trading down and came away with a bonanza of Charles Haley, John Taylor, Tom Rathman, Kevin Fagan, Don Griffin, Steve Wallace, Tim McKyer and Larry Roberts – all key starters in the team's future Super Bowl championship runs. Coach Bill Walsh traded away quarterback Matt Cavanaugh and offensive tackle Billy Shields to gain more picks, and his series of masterful moves on draft day resulted in a 14-player haul that fortified the team's dynasty for a decade to come.

2. 1994: This great draft produced four immediate starters – future All-Pro defensive tackle Bryant Young, fullback William Floyd, linebacker Lee Woodall and kicker Doug Brien – and provided three other players that became key contributors in the team's surge to the Super Bowl championship that season. Young and Woodall both made multiple trips to the Pro Bowl and, in a testament to the depth of quality in this draft class, Woodall was the last of San Francisco's eight picks – seven of which made the final roster on a team that had reached the NFC championship game each of the previous two seasons.

3. 1981: Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and Pro Bowlers Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright immediately gave the Niners one of the NFL's top secondaries, a distinction that lasted throughout the remainder of the decade. Lynn Thomas also contributed to that secondary, and John Harty and Pete Kugler each saw time as starters along the defensive line. This top draft class immediately vaulted the 49ers into their first Super Bowl the same season it arrived on the scene.

4. 1970: This strong draft produced a score of players who contributed heavily to the team's early-1970s heyday, when the 49ers won three consecutive NFC West titles and reached the NFC championship game twice. Cedrick Hardman, Bruce Taylor and Vic Washington each became Pro Bowlers by their second season in 1971, Larry Schreiber became a workhorse running back and John Isenbarger and Preston Riley also were contributors to the team's championship run.

5. 1984: This draft yielded two Pro Bowlers (Guy McIntyre and Michael Carter), three starters (Todd Shell, John Frank and Jeff Fuller) and versatile running back/returner Derrick Harmon. It also helped vault the 49ers back into the Super Bowl that season, and strengthened the foundation that would lift the Niners into two more before the decade was over.

6. 1983: The first and last choice of this draft – second-rounder Roger Craig and 11th-rounder Jesse Sapolu – became Pro Bowlers and pivotal starters in the team's dynasty, and No. 4 pick Tom Holmoe and No. 5 Riki Ellison also played major roles. Like the great '86 and'84 drafts, this group put in place several key parts that helped San Francisco build the greatest enduring dynasty in professional sports history.

7. 1979: The groundwork for a dynasty was put in place here with the selection of franchise mainstays Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. In Walsh's first draft, the 49ers were able to land Montana – a three-time Super Bowl MVP and arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time – in the third round and Clark – fourth among the team's all-time leaders in receptions – in the 10th round.

8. 1964: The team began to build the framework for successful seasons to come with Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox, Dave Parks, Howard Mudd, Ed Beard and George Mira all joining the team in this draft. Wilcox simply was one of the greatest outside linebackers in NFL history, Parks led the NFL in receiving by his second season, Mudd was in the Pro Bowl by 1967 and Beard combined with Wilcox and Matt Hazeltine to form one of the league's best starting linebacker units.

9. 1961: Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson was the top pick, and Bernie Casey, Bill Kilmer and Roland Lakes followed in later rounds. Johnson became one of the greatest 49ers ever, Casey led the Niners in receiving three consecutive seasons and was second the next two, Kilmer had a successful and enduring NFL career and Lakes became a fixture along the defensive line throughout the decade and into the team's 1970s championship run.

10. 2000: After just a few years, this class had the appearance of one of the team's top drafts ever, but it lost some of its luster in years to follow, particularly after the 2006 offseason departures of first-round picks Julian Peterson and Ahmed Plummer, who both were quality starters early in their careers. But the Niners scored here with an 11-player bonanza that was instrumental in rebuilding the franchise. All 11 picks made the team, and five became starters as rookies, with Peterson making it to two Pro Bowls before he bolted to division rival Seattle for big money in 2006 free agency. Of this group from 11 years ago, seventh-round pick Brian Jennings remains on the 49ers' roster of today as the team's top-flight long-snapper.

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