The 49ers landed some gems in Round 2 of the NFL Draft before, particularly with running back Roger Craig and offensive lineman Randy Cross.
The San Francisco 49ers have no shortage of examples why it doesn’t necessarily matter where a player is selected in the NFL Draft.
While first-round picks always garner the most attention and are typically under the most scrutiny, mid- and late-round additions can be just as impactful. The Niners learned this recently in 2017 with All-Pro tight end George Kittle. And long ago, a Round 3 quarterback out of Notre Dame, Joe Montana, became the greatest of all time at his position.
The third round also landed San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher, running back Frank Gore.
Yet the second round of the NFL Draft has also generated some great 49ers players over the years, but few come close to providing the kind of long-term impact as running back Roger Craig and offensive guard Randy Cross.
Randy Cross was a model of consistency for the 49ers O-line during the dynasty years
The Niners were awful when Cross was selected in Round 2, No. 42 overall, of the 1976 NFL Draft out of UCLA. And it took San Francisco a few rough years before head coach Bill Walsh started implementing his own program in 1979.
Cross moved from center to guard that year. And by 1981, he was a key cog in what was turning into one of the better offensive lines in the league en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
During his exceptional 13-year career, all with the 49ers, Cross would be named a three-time Pro Bowler while starting 180 of 185 games played.
If that’s not a model of high-level production, it’s hard to say what is.
Cross, of course, would earn three Super Bowl rings during that span. And while he might not be considered the greatest Niners O-lineman of all time, he certainly belongs high up on that list.
Roger Craig set a new standard for NFL running backs that has only rarely been equaled
Selected at No. 49 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft out of Nebraska, there’s an awfully sound argument Craig should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Stemming from a time when running backs generally had only one responsibility, running the ball, Walsh’s West Coast offense opened up the chances for halfbacks like Craig to be not only involved in the passing game but a massive part of it.
1985 was the prime example of this when Craig actually led the entire NFL in receptions with 92 and mustered 1,016 receiving yards — again, a running back doing this — to go along with his also-astounding 1,050 rush yards, which brought his all-purpose yards total to a career-best 2,066 yards.
And in 1988, Craig essentially duplicated this again with a league-best 2,036 yards from scrimmage.
49ers Webzone’s Andre Tameta argued back in 2009 why these accolades should put Craig in the Hall of Fame:
"Craig’s numbers and three Super Bowl rings should qualify him to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the first running back to be elected to the Pro Bowl at both fullback and halfback, the first offensive player to run and catch for a thousand yards in a season and he also appeared in the playoffs every year of his illustrious career.He was the Marshall Faulk of his era."
Faulk came to define the dual-threat halfback role in the late 1990s and early 2000s, twice eclipsing Craig’s 2,000-yard all-purpose mark.
Yet Craig was the first to set that bar, while Faulk has cemented himself in the Hall of Fame since.
Either way, Craig’s storied 11-year career, which included eight seasons in San Francisco, certainly warrants placement as the team’s best second-round NFL Draft pick in franchise history.