The Story of the Greatest Draft-Day Deal in NFL History

Published on April 22nd, 2023 8:51 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The greatest draft day deal in NFL history.  In photo: Jerry Rice - San Francisco 49ers. On April 30th, 1985, the San Francisco 49ers pulled off the greatest draft day deal in NFL history, when they traded with the New England Patriots to secure the #16 spot in the draft.

The 49ers knew that Mississippi Valley wide receiver Jerry Rice was their man, and they didn't want to wait for Rice to possibly fall to them.

After wide receivers Al Toon and Eddie Brown were taken with the #10 and #13 picks, the 49ers knew that there was a good chance that Rice would be off the board soon.

The Raiders, for instance, had a need for a wide receiver, and they were picking before the 49ers.

The Dallas Cowboys were also picking #17, and the 49ers thought that they might take Rice.

So, the 49ers and New England Patriots worked out a deal.

The 49ers gave the Patriots their first round, second round and third round picks in the 1985 draft, in exchange for the Patriots first round and third round picks.


After the Kansas City Chiefs selected tight end Ethan Horton with the #15 overall pick, the 49ers hurried to the podium where they would select their man - Jerry Rice.


Jerry Rice would go on to become the greatest wide receiver of all time, as the Montana/Rice and Young/Rice combos would torch the NFL for years and bring multiple Super Bowls to San Francisco.

The 49ers had heavily scouted Jerry Rice, and they knew of his otherworldly talents, and knew that they had to have him.

In a parallel universe, the New York Jets or Cincinnati Bengals (who both selected wide receivers before Jerry Rice was taken) would have selected Rice, and the trajectories for multiple franchises would have been altered forever.


It's a well-known fact that Jerry Rice was high on the board of the Dallas Cowboys, and it's almost certain that they would have taken Rice at #17 if he were still available.

The future was altered, however, when the 49ers swooped in and did a deal with the Patriots for the #16 pick.

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