San Francisco 49ers: The Top 50 Greatest 49ers of All Time

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIINovember 16, 2010

San Francisco 49ers: The Top 50 Greatest 49ers of All Time

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    The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most decorated franchises in NFL history. They hold traditions, have won five Super Bowls and have, all in all, revolutionized the game of football.

    One of the most important aspect of the organization's success has been its long list of talented players, including their 17 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees.

    Whether they be from the team's early days, ones from their championship years or those from the present, the 49ers have produced numerous skilled players throughout their existence.

    Therefore, in honor of the team's greats, I've decided to compile a ranking of the Top 50 49ers of all time. 

50. Andy Lee (2004-Present)

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    Andy Lee P #6Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Andy Lee, a two-time Pro Bowler, is the greatest punter in San Francisco 49ers history and is arguably the best in the league today.

    He has an impressive career net average of 45.1 yards per punt, and frequently pins the opposition inside their own 20-yard-line.

    While being a punter may not be a glamor job, it's certainly important because it plays a huge factor in field position.

    The 49ers are fortunate to have somebody as gifted as Lee. 

49. Abe Woodson (1958-1964)

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    Abe Woodson was best known for his dual threat ability as both a defensive back and a return specialist.

    He scored a total of seven touchdowns in his career returning kicks, twice on punts and five on kickoffs.

    Defensively, he picked off 15 passes and forced 14 fumbles in his seven years with the 49ers. 

48. Ray Wersching (1977-1987)

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    Ray Wersching was an undrafted free agent who made a name for himself as a clutch kicker.

    In fact, in Super Bowl XVI, he set a Super Bowl record by nailing four field goals in the 49ers win.

    By the time he retired, Wesching held the record for most points in team history.

    An interesting fact to know is that he always looked down until after he had kicked a field goal or extra point. 

47. Eric Davis (1990-1995)

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    Eric Davis played at his best after he left the San Francisco 49ers, but he still made a mark on the team.

    Davis was an integral key to the team's victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship Game, which eventually led to a win in Super Bowl XXIX.

46. Deion Sanders (1994)

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    Deion Sanders may be the best cornerback in NFL history, but since he only played a single season for the San Francisco 49ers, I chose to put him here on my ranking.

    Nonetheless, that was probably the best season of his career, as he intercepted six passes and returned them for a total of 303 yards (NFL record), three of which were returned for scores. 

    He was named the Defensive Player of the Year, and capped off a memorable season by recording a pick in the team's Super Bowl XXIX victory. 

45. Ricky Watters (1991-1994)

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    Ricky Watters led the San Francisco 49ers in offense from 1992 to 1994 and was a primary reason why they went to the NFC Championship Game in '92 and '93. In fact, he set an NFL postseason record, as he scored five touchdowns in a 44-3 rout of the New York Giants in a '93 divisional playoff game. 

    Later, he would provide an even bigger contribution, as he scored three touchdowns in the team's victory in Super Bowl XXIX. 

    Unfortunately, Watters would leave via free agency subsequently. 

44. Jack Reynolds (1981-1984)

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    Jack Reynolds was a fullback-turned-linebacker who was a part of two of the team's Super Bowl victories (XVI and XIX) in the '80s.

    He was well known for the aggressive nature that he brought to the squad.

43. Ken Norton Jr. (1994-2000)

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    After a successful stint with the Dallas Cowboys, Ken Norton Jr. joined the San Francisco 49ers via free agency. That season, he would go on to being placed on the All-Pro team. 

    Furthermore, after winning Super Bowl XXIX, he became the first NFL player ever to win three consecutive championships. 

42. Forrest Blue (1968-1974)

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    Forrest Blue was a stud offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers that attended four Pro Bowls during his 11-year career with the team.

41. Michael Carter (1984-1992)

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    Michael Carter stood strong as a nose tackle at 6'2'', 285 pounds, and his tremendous athletic ability allowed him to create havoc in the opponent's backfield.

    Carter would go on to three Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowl championships as well.

    Interestingly enough, he's the only person to win an Olympic medal and Super Bowl ring in the same year. 

40. Garrison Hearst (1997-1998, 2001-2003)

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    Garrison Hearst was wildy successful in his first few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, and looked as if he'd become the next great running back.

    He was an all-purpose player who could produce by both rushing the ball and receiving it. 

    However, a nasty broken ankle injury prematurely ended his time with the team.

    On a side note, NFL Films claims that his 96-yard game-winning touchdown run in overtime against the Jets is one of the two best running plays of all time.

39. Steve Wallace (1986-1996)

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    Steve Wallace was a member of the San Francisco 49ers team that won three Super Bowls. Head coach Bill Walsh often referred to Wallace as one of his favorite players ever. 

    Due to his physical style of play, Wallace suffered many concussions throughout his career. In fact, the head injuries were so prevalent that he was forced to wear a styrofoam helmet above his regular one. 

    On a side note, he earned the Community Player of the Year Award in 1992.

38. Kermit Alexander (1963-1969)

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    The San Francisco 49ers took Kermit Alexander with the eighth overall selection in the 1963 NFL Draft, and he was best known as the cornerback who played opposite Jimmy Johnson, which formed one of the most stifling tandems in the league. 

37. Tim McDonald (1993-1999)

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    Tim McDonald joined the San Francisco 49ers via free agency and played a pivotal role in their victory in Super Bowl XXIX. 

    McDonald was a six-time Pro Bowler, three of which were during his tenure with the 49ers.

    He also raised a total of $22,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of the Bay Area by donating $2,000 for every 49ers victory in 1993.

36. Eric Wright (1981-1990)

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    Eric Wright was widely considered one of the best, if not the best, cornerback of his playing era. He spent his entire 10-year career with the San Francisco 49ers and was part of four Super Bowl-winning squads. 

    His best season came in 1993 when he intercepted seven passes, returning them for a total of 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

35. Freddie Solomon (1978-1985)

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    Freddie Solomon had several big games for the San Francisco 49ers, but none was bigger than a three-touchdown performance in which he scored one receiving, one rushing and one on a punt return.

    An interesting fact about Solomon was that he was indeed the intended receiver on Dwight Clark's famous "The Catch" play. However, he had slipped while breaking out of his cut. Of course, it all worked out in the end. 

34. Charles Haley (1986-1991, 1998-1999)

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    Charles Haley was one of the most versatile defensive players of his time as he possessed the unique ability to generate an effective pass rush from both the outside linebacker and defensive end position. For his career, Haley had 100.5 sacks.

    Still today, he is the only NFL player to win five Super Bowls, which is truly a remarkable feat.

    Interestingly enough, his resume hasn't been enough to claim him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet. 

33. Harris Barton (1987-1999)

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    Harris Barton was an All-Pro offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.

    He got off to a quick start in his career, earning second-place honors in the Rookie of the Year Award voting. 

32. Jeff Garcia (1999-2003)

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    Jeff Garcia was signed to backup Steve Young for the San Francisco 49ers, but little did the team know that he would soon develop into a quality quarterback.

    After being awarded an opportunity, he capitalized on it and did an excellent job leading the team.

    Unfortunately, issues with Terrell Owens created tension and problems with ball management eventually led to his demise.

31. Guy McIntyre (1984-1993)

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    Guy McIntyre, an offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers, became the first lineman to revolutionize the game, as he was the first in NFL history to be used as a blocking back in Bill Walsh's "Elephant" short-yardage formation.

    This strategy was rather successful and later adapted by other teams in the league.  

30. Jesse Sapolu (1983-1997)

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    Jesse Sapolu was a powerful interior offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, and was an integral key to four of the team's Super Bowl victories. 

    Even today, Sapolu remains active in the team's alumni and is recognized as one of the better O-lineman in team history

29. J.D. Smith (1956-1964)

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    J.D. Smith, a two-time Pro Bowl running back, currently ranks fifth on the San Francisco 49ers all-time rushing list. 

28. Dwight Hicks (1979-1985)

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    Dwight Hicks quickly transitioned into the NFL, and became the leader of the San Francisco 49ers secondary during their dynasty in the '80s.

    He registered 32 career interceptions and made several big plays in route to their two Super Bowl wins. 

27. Patrick Willis (2007-Present)

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    Ever since being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, Patrick Willis has emerged as one of the premier defensive players in the NFL. In fact, he's arguably the best in the business today.

    He possesses tremendous athleticism, remarkable instincts and incredible passion for the game. That being so, he's able to produce at every level of the game, making an impact all over the field.

    There's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be much higher up on this list in the future. 

26. Merton Hanks (1991-1998)

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    Due to a slow combine 40-yard-dash time, Merton hanks took a significant dip in the NFL draft rankings.

    However, he proved his naysayers wrong by becoming a five-time All-Pro and making big-time interceptions and returns throughout his career.

25. Keena Turner (1980-1990)

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    The San Francisco 49ers traded for Keena Turner on draft day, and it has proved to be a wise decision.

    Turner played his entire career with the team and helped win four Super Bowl rings.

24. Frank Gore (2005-Present)

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    Frank Gore is a scrappy running back who excels as a downhill runner. 

    He's amassed 1,000 yards on the ground in each of his past four seasons and doesn't seem like he'll slow down anytime soon. Moreover, he has the ability to beat his opponents in the receiving game as well.

    All in all, Gore is a superb talent and could eventually be the best running back in team history.

23. Terrell Owens (1996-2003)

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    Even though we often overlook it, Terrell Owens is actually one of the greatest receivers of all time, and he started off his career with a bang with the San Francisco 49ers.

    He set a record with 20 receptions in a game with the team and formed a formidable duo with Jerry Rice.

    Unfortunately, his antics were too much for the team to deal with and he was eventually traded. 

22. Randy Cross (1976-1988)

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    Randy Cross played 13 seasons in the NFL, six of which he was named an All-Pro offensive lineman. 

    Furthermore, Cross became a mainstay of the unit and won three Super Bowls with the team.

21. John Taylor (1987-1995)

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    The San Francisco 49ers drafted John Taylor in the third round, and this selection now ranks amongst ESPN's Top 25 biggest steals of all time.

    Despite often being overshadowed, he was an excellent complementary receiver to Jerry Rice. Even though he was the No. 2 option, he would go onto to set numerous records. 

    In his career, he's best known for the game-winning touchdown that he scored in Super Bowl XXIII. 

20. John Brodie (1957-1973)

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    John Brodie started off struggling for playing time with Y.A. Tittle, but he eventually established himself as one of the elite quarterbacks of the 1960s. 

    When he retired, he ranked third in career passing yards. 

19. Brent Jones (1987-1997)

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    Brent Jones was acquired through a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he would go on to have a illustrious career with the team.

    He finished with 417 receptions for 5,195 yards and 33 touchdowns. 

18. Tom Rathman (1986-1993)

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    Tom Rathman, a fullback for the San Francisco 49ers, was famous for blocking for the great Roger Craig.

    Moreover, he chipped in production as both a runner and receiver.

    Now, he is currently the team's running backs coach.

17. Fred Dean (1981-1985)

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    The San Francisco 49ers traded for Fred Dean and he went on to have a very successful tenure with the team.

    He was one of the best at generating an effective pass rush and had 93 sacks on his career.

    He was a huge reason the team was able to win multiple Super Bowls. 

16. Dwight Clark (1979-1987)

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    Dwight Clark had an amazing career with the San Francisco 49ers, and he quickly became one of Bill Walsh and Joe Montana's favorite targets.

    Of course, Clark is most famous for "The Catch" in a 1982 NFC playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.

15. Leo Nomellini (1950-1963)

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    Leo Nomellini was the San Francisco 49ers' first draft choice in franchise history, and it certainly set the good fortunes for years to come.

    Nomellini was an All-Pro on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

14. Joe Perry (1948-1960, 1963)

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    Joe Perry, a fullback in the NFL, was best recognized for his durability, which allowed him to play in three separate decades. 

    Furthermore, he was the NFL's all-time leading rusher when he retired. Of course, that record would eventually be broken by the Cleveland Browns' Jim Brown. 

    Coincidentally, Perry played alongside McElhenny back in college where the two won a pair of national championships.

13. Gene Washington (1969-1977)

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    Gene Washington was an 11-year player for the San Francisco 49ers, where he established himself as a dynamic receiver.

    Interestingly enough, playing in the NFL is merely one of his several accomplishments. 

12. Y.A. Tittle (1951-1960)

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    Y.A. Tittle spent 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, most of which he was forced to share playing time with other quarterbacks.

    Nonetheless, many of his career records still stand proud today. 

    While he wasn't at his best with the 49ers, Tittle would go on to have a Hall of Fame career.

11. John Henry Johnson (1954-1956)

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    John Henry Johnson was a fullback in the NFL, and he played a few seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. 

    When he retired, he ranked fourth on the NFL's all-time rushing list. 

10. Bob St. Clair (1953-1963)

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    Bob St. Clair, nicknamed the "Geek," was a Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played his entire career for the San Francisco 49ers.

    In fact, the team decided to rename Kezar Stadium in his name.

9. Roger Craig (1983-1990)

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    Roger Craig was one of the first dual-threat running backs in the NFL, as he was able to shred defenses both with his receiving and rushing ability.

    Craig also invented the high-knee running style that is often practiced today.

    What I admired most about him, though, was his ability to play at his best on the biggest stages. 

8. Hugh McElhenny (1952-1960)

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    Upon entering the league as the San Francisco 49ers' first-round selection in the 1952 NFL Draft, Hugh McElhenny immediately made a name for himself due to his exciting brand of play.

    He was named the Rookie of the Year, and would go on to five Pro Bowls.

7. Jimmy Johnson (1961-1976)

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    Jimmy Johnson played an incredible 15 seasons in the NFL, all of which he played with the San Francisco 49ers.

    He was a versatile talent who played at safety, wide receiver and corneback. During his career, he finished with 47 interceptions and returned them for a total of 615 yards.

    The five-time Pro Bowler and member of the 1970s All-Decade team was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

6. Dave Wilcox (1964-1974)

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    Dave Wilcox had a very successful career in the NFL, as he was elected to seven Pro Bowls and was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.

    Of course, this was rightfully so as Wilcox established himself as one of the premier outside linebackers of his time. By doing so, he earned himself the nickname "The Intimidator."

    It was well documented that Wilcox made it his goal to prevent any player from getting off for a block or pass route. He always enjoyed being in pursuit and involved in the action. 

5. Bryant Young (1994-2007)

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    Despite playing most of his career during the 49ers' down years, Bryant Young was a dominant force off the edge as he holds the franchise record with 89.5 sacks.

    In my opinion, he’s severely underrated. 

4. Steve Young (1987-1999)

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    It’s truly amazing how the 49ers were able to make the fluid transition from Hall of Fame quarterback to Hall of Fame quarterback as Steve Young successfully met the high expectations that Joe Montana left him with.

    Young is a three-time Super Bowl champion and holds the record for the highest quarterback passer rating of all time.

3. Ronnie Lott (1981-1990)

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    Whether he lined up at cornerback, free safety or strong safety, Ronnie Lott was one of the most feared hitters of all time. He set the tempo for the 49ers defense and was a force to reckon with in the secondary.

    Furthermore, he was elected as a member of both the 1980s and '90s All-Decade teams.

2. Joe Montana (1979-1992)

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    Joe Montana, or Joe Cool, as many referred to him, was one of the best when under pressure. In fact, he led the 49ers to 31 comeback victories, which makes him the most clutch quarterback ever, in my mind. 

    Moreover, the eight-time Pro Bowler was an integral key to four Super Bowl victories.

1. Jerry Rice (1985-2000)

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    Jerry Rice holds virtually every statistical record for receivers and was voted as the No. 1 player of all time by NFL Network. 

    He was an 11-time first-team All-Pro and was especially dominant in his three Super Bowl victories, earning MVP honors in one of them.

    Therefore, in my opinion, he’s undoubtedly the greatest player to ever put on a San Francisco 49ers uniform.