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With Cavanaugh gone, the Niners were left with Mike Moroski as Montana's main backup. Walsh made note of a couple of quarterbacks he would try to pursue either during the draft or afterward. However, with the third round beginning, it was time to make some selections. With the pick the 49ers had received from Buffalo, the 56th overall, they took Rathman, even though his four scouting grades were -4, +4, +5 and -5.
Why Rathman? He had carried the ball 220 times and caught five passes in four Nebraska seasons. Razzano had gone to see him and in his report had written, "Would fight hard for a position but wouldn't make our squad."
Three things, besides the game film, persuaded Walsh to pick Rathman: 1) He knew Al Davis liked Rathman, and Walsh respected Davis's opinion on everything; 2) Rathman was a devastating and unselfish blocker; and 3) Rathman was an athlete—he had been the Nebraska high school high-jump champion with a 6'8" leap in 1981.
Walsh, of course, was right. Since signing, Rathman has rushed for more than four yards per carry and has 158 receptions for 1,448 yards.
Next, using the pick obtained from the Eagles, the 49ers selected McKyer, a cornerback from Texas-Arlington, which had discontinued football after the 1985 season. "I knew one thing going into that draft," assistant coach Ray Rhodes says. "Tim McKyer was the guy I wanted." Superb at man-to-man coverage, McKyer had a reputation as a mediocre hitter. "Don't worry," Rhodes told Walsh. "I'll make him play the run."
Another good choice. McKyer started every game, including playoffs, for the 49ers for the next three years.
Now the Los Angeles Rams were calling. They wanted the third-round pick, No. 66 in the draft, that the Niners had gotten from Detroit. Walsh saw a chance to obtain the quarterback he needed, and a deal was quickly completed. The Rams gave the 49ers two fourth-round choices and backup quarterback Jeff Kemp. There was only one problem: Teams cannot trade unsigned players, and Kemp was unsigned. It took the NFL office 20 minutes to straighten out the wording of the deal—the 49ers would be trading for the rights to Kemp—but during that time, the Rams were not able to make the third-round pick they had just acquired, and they missed out on the quarterback they wanted, Bubby Brister of Northeast Louisiana, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"After the Rams trade," says Walsh, "it was over. We had acquired what we wanted in picks. Now we had to make them work."
Walsh made Taylor, from Delaware State, his next choice. The college film on Taylor, Walsh recalls, "was primitive. You couldn't tell much by it." But aside from a plodding off-the-line start, Taylor was a gem. He was a terrific leaper and quick in the open field.
Taylor had a horrible training camp that summer, and McVay started checking to see if he had market value. He found no takers, but late in the preseason, someone in the 49ers organization quietly advised Taylor that it would be best for him if he suddenly developed a bad back. He reported to the training room complaining of pain, and he spent the season on injured reserve. Yet he continued to practice, and by December, Walsh thought he might turn into quite a player. Now, Jerry Rice and Taylor are the best one-two receiving threat in the game.