Two of the team’s best entertainers were selected on this day in 49ers draft history.
With the No. 11 overall pick, the 49ers strengthened their defense for the long haul by selecting Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. Shortly after, the team traded back into the first round to take Central Michigan tackle Joe Staley with the No. 28 overall selection.
Since then, both players have become solid performers for the team and have been rewarded with contract extensions. Willis signed a five-year extension through 2016; Staley signed a six-year extension through 2017. And both have become leaders on their respective sides of the ball.
Willis, a four-time Pro Bowler, was recently named the NFL’s best linebacker by a panel of ESPN’s pro football writers. Furthermore, he’s the first 49ers player to make four consecutive Pro Bowls to start his career since Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott. In four seasons, Willis has an astounding 737 tackles, 15 sacks, eight forced fumbles and four interceptions.
With Willis in the fold, the 49ers traded back into the first round with the New England Patriots to acquire Staley’s services. The team packaged the No. 110 overall pick and a 2008 first-round pick to get New England’s No. 28 overall pick. Staley started all 16 games at right tackle as a rookie, becoming the first 49ers rookie offensive lineman to start every game in a season since Cas Banaszek started all 14 contests in 1968. Staley and Willis were two of three 2007 draft class members to start every game as rookies.
Staley has been a leader on the 49ers offensive line, starting all 50 of the games he’s appeared in. He’s also one of the team’s most engaging performers on and off the field as witnessed by the show he hosts on 49ers.com, aptly named, “The Joe Show.”