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49ers throwback: When San Francisco hit home runs with draft day trades

A look back at two draft-day deals the Niners made that turned out great for the franchise.

The San Francisco 49ers hold the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. General manager John Lynch made a deal with the Miami Dolphins to move up from No. 12 marking the third time in five drafts that Lynch has made a move with the team’s first-round selection.

The Niners traded both up and down the draft board in the first round last year. San Francisco traded back one spot and selected defensive Javon Kinlaw 14th and then traded up from No. 31 to take receiver Brandon Aiyuk 25th.

In 2017, Lynch’s first draft at the helm, the 49ers traded down one spot and took defensive lineman Solomon Thomas No. 3. Lynch then traded up late in the first round to take linebacker Reuben Forster.

San Francisco moved up to take its quarterback of the future. The pick will be either Justin Fields, Mac Jones, or Trey Lance, and we will have to wait and see how the trade turns out.

San Francisco made a couple of memorable trades on draft day in the first round looking back at history. Both moves landed the franchise Hall of Fame players and were made during the illustrious Bill Walsh era.

1985 NFL Draft:

In the 1984 season, San Francisco held the final pick in the first round after coming off of a Super Bowl championship.

The legendary Walsh had his eyes on moving ahead of the hated Dallas Cowboys, who were slated to pick No. 17, and had their eyes on a receiver named Jerry Rice, who Walsh noticed after watching highlights while getting ready for the regular season in Houston.

Walsh wrote about this moment in his book.

“As usual on the night before a game, I was in my hotel room watching television to learn the college scores. It was near midnight, and I was beginning to doze off when I heard the sportscaster say, ‘Following this break, we have some incredible highlights of Jerry Rice and the Mississippi Valley State game.’ That caught my attention, and I sat up to take a look at this ‘living legend.’”

The rest, as they say, is history. Walsh swapped first-round picks and sent over some late-round selections to the New England Patriots.

Rice went on to become the greatest NFL player in history, while the Patriots got offensive lineman Trevor Matich.

Rice played for the 49ers from 1985 to 2000. He caught 1,281 passes for 19,247 yards and 176 touchdowns while with the franchise. Rice also helped San Francisco win three championships, and he was named Super Bowl MVP when he caught 11 passes for a record 215 yards and a score in the Niners’ 20-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

1987 NFL Draft:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the No. 1 pick and were looking to pick a quarterback. The Bucs picked a guy named Steve Young, the first selection of the 1984 supplemental draft.

Young opted to play for the Los Angeles Express of the USFL and joined Tampa Bay in 1985. Things did not go well.

The team went 3-16 over the 19 starts Young made, and the Bucs were ready to move on.

Tampa selected Vinny Testaverde with the No. 1 pick, paving the way for Walsh and the Niners to make their move.

San Francisco sent a second and fourth-round pick to the Bucs for Young, who joined the team as a backup to the great Joe Montana.

Young eventually took over as the full-time starter when Montana was hurt in the 1990 NFC Championship game. He went 91-33 as the starter with San Francisco, leading the team to a Super Bowl win. Young was also named an All-Pro three times and won two MVP awards.

If Lynch’s trade lands the 49ers a player even close to the level of Rice or Young, we will be talking about the deal decades from now. Thursday can’t get here soon enough.