How 49ers built championship core from six 1986 NFL draft-day trades


The 49ers entered the 1986 NFL Draft with the No. 18 overall selection. They had one pick in each of the first four rounds and no selections in the fifth round.

Coach Bill Walsh and general manager John McVay traded down four times before adding a player.

At one point, then-owner Eddie DeBartolo called the 49ers’ draft room to express he was losing his patience.

“When are you going to pick somebody? Give me a name,” DeBartolo said. “My phone bills are going to be bigger than our signing bonuses.”

The 49ers eventually made six trades with six different teams and selected eight players who would become starters two years later on the 49ers’ Super Bowl XXIII champion team. Those players were:

Second round: Defensive end Larry Roberts (39)
Third round: Fullback Tom Rathman (56)
Third round: Cornerback Tim McKyer (64)
Third round: Wied receiver John Taylor (76)
Fourth round: Defensive end Charles Haley (96)
Fourth round: Offensive tackle Steve Wallace (101)
Fourth round: Defensive end Kevin Fagan (102)
Sixth round: Cornerback Don Griffin (162)

“It was really one of the greatest drafts that the 49ers had from a core-player perspective,” former 49ers tight end Brent Jones said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “That really built the core of the 49ers for the next seven, eight years, and was probably instrumental in allowing us to go to the Super Bowls in 1988 and ’89.”

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“In terms of big names,” Jones added, “there wasn’t big brand names out of the group. (Pro Football Hall of Famer) Charles Haley was a fourth-rounder, but you look at the output that all of those guys had on the field and how many starters came from that draft. It was extremely significant. Our organization did a heck of a job.”

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Jones also was part of that 1986 draft class, but he was not a selection of the 49ers. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Jones in the fifth round out of Santa Clara.

But just a couple weeks after the draft, he sustained a herniated disk in his neck when he and his future wife were struck by a drunk driver near their home.

The Steelers placed Jones on injured reserve, then released him. The 49ers took him to training camp in 1987. And it turned out to be fortuitous for Jones, who earned four trips to the Pro Bowl and three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers.

“It was a long around, but it was worth the wait,” Jones said.

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