After selecting from a talent pool that lacked both quantity and quality, the New England Patriots, who had several picks, and the San Francisco 49ers, who made the most of a few, had the best reasons to celebrate when the National Football League draft ended Wednesday.

The Patriots, who led off the draft after a 2-14 season last year, shouldn't be that bad again for a long time, thanks in part to personnel director Dick Steinberg and his scouts.

But while New England improved the weakest part of its defense, the front line, the Super Bowl champion 49ers took care of one of their few weaknesses by trading away their No. 1 pick to the Patriots.

In return, San Francisco received all-pro tight end Russ Francis. Can you imagine what Bill Walsh will do with this superb receiver? The 49ers did not get the running back they need, but if Skeets Nehemiah even comes close to catching passes as well as he hurdled to world records, Walsh may have enough passing tools to make the run obsolete.

The 49ers, who drafted a promising tackle in Bubba Paris of Michigan, illustrated how to get the most out of little in the annual college harvest, while the Patriots extracted the most from a lot, beginning with defensive tackle Kenneth Sims and continuing with 11 selections in the first six rounds. Eight of those drafted play defense.

At the other end of the spectrum was San Diego, which considers the draft as important as George Allen once did. The Chargers prefer veterans -- Chuck Muncie, Wes Chandler, David Lewis, Tim Fox--to rookies. They wound up with only six selections, none a threat to become all-pro.

Other teams did almost as poorly. Why did Seattle, which has a poor offensive line, use a pick early in the first round to take a questionable defensive end, Jeff Bryant? And how can a team that has struggled for so long waste a third-round pick on Pete Metzelaars, a college basketball player with questionable quickness who will be recast as a tight end?

Green Bay didn't distinguish itself by using its No. 1 on guard Ron Hallstrom of Iowa instead of guard Roy Foster of Southern California.

But Los Angeles, like San Francisco, used trades and the draft to improve itself considerably. The Rams, who stockpile choices, used some of their excess to help solve the problem at quarterback by obtaining Bert Jones from Baltimore. Then the Rams got the fullback they wanted in Richmond's Barry Redden.

Oakland went the retread route, trading for Greg Pruitt and Lyle Alzado, then went against the opinions of many experts by chosing running back Marcus Allen, the Heisman Trophy winner. If either Allen or Pruitt produces, the Raiders won't be as feeble offensively next year.

And Cleveland, with the predraft signing of free agent Tom Cousineau and the selection of USC's Chip Banks, has remade its linebacking corps.

Pittsburgh, trying to recapture its former glory, may have found a replacement for Franco Harris in Baylor's Walter Abercrombie. If not, the Steelers may have set a league record for wasting No. 1s on running backs (Greg Hawthorne, et al).

The Jets may have done better in the second round with tackle Reggie McElroy than in the first with linebacker Bob Crable. Miami, as usual, ranked among the most successful teams on draft day, getting Foster in the first round and a bona fide sleeper, receiver Mike Duper, in the second.

Houston, in need of help on its offensive line, should be happy with guard Mike Munchak of Penn State, perhaps the best offensive lineman in the draft. Kansas City wanted a speedy wide receiver and its quest was successful: Anthony Hancock of Tennessee.

Denver Coach Dan Reeves wanted offensive help, so he used his four choices on such players as running back Gerald Willhite of San Jose State and receiver Orlando McDaniel of Louisiana State, much to quarterback Craig Morton's relief. None of the Redskins' NFC East foes had a spectacular draft. Cornerback Rod Hill of Kentucky State will help Dallas' secondary, but receiver Mike Quick and tight end Lawrence Sampleton both have to live up to their potential in Philadelphia.

The Giants wanted running help for Rob Carpenter, so they drafted two backs, Butch Woolfolk and Joe Morris. St. Louis got a replacement for tackle Dan Dierdorf in Luis Sharpe of UCLA. Washington, though, had a draft built around the instincts of General Manager Bobby Beathard. If he's very wrong, the Redskins could wind up losing ground.

Chicago finally did the smart thing by drafting a quarterback, Jim McMahon, who may make Vince Evans a substitute. Atlanta hopes running back Gerald Riggs of Arizona State will replace Lynn Cain and take pressure off William Andrews.

Detroit, Minnesota and New Orleans all did better, however. The Vikings added versatile running back Darrin Nelson and tackle Terry Tausch (Ron Yary's heir apparent); the Lions got a one-two punch of linebacker Jimmy Williams and cornerback Bobby Watkins, and the Saints drafted by need: receiver Lindsay Scott, center Brad Edelman and cornerback Rodney Lewis.

Finally, did Baltimore blow a chance to get much, much better? The Colts let Jones go to Los Angeles and now hope Art Schlichter can become an immediate star at quarterback. Johnie Cooks could be a great linebacker, but with so many problems, why take a punter, Rohn Stark, in the second round? Or, for that matter, an undersized nose guard in Leo Wisniewski? Given the same opportunity to excel as New England, Baltimore wound up losing on draft day, too.