With Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson as wide receivers, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick won’t have a shortage of targets in 2014.
Throw in one of the best tight ends in the league in Vernon Davis, as well as a couple of other wide receivers in Brandon Lloyd and Quinton Patton, and the Niners’ receiving corps looks outstanding.
But where does that leave Bruce Ellington?
On almost any other team Ellington, a fourth-round pick of the 49ers out of South Carolina, might be in the running for significant playing time in 2014.
But even if the 49ers love what he does – and so far, they do – it’s going to be tough for the 5-foot-9, 197-pounder to work his way into the lineup.
Training camp will open next week for the 49ers, so Ellington’s rookie year will truly get under way. But through organized team activities (OTAs) and the recent full-roster minicamp, Ellington has been impressive.
He may be small, but Ellington has exceptional quickness and deep-threat speed. Kaepernick certainly has noticed him.
“Bruce has been amazing out here,” Kaepernick recently told a reporter. “He’s picked up very quickly. Good route runner. Very good feel for the game and he’s made plays when we’ve given him the opportunity.”
Ellington, who played both football and basketball (point guard) at South Carolina, had 106 catches for the Gamecocks for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns, and also returned kicks (something he could do for the 49ers).
Speaking recently at a youth football camp in South Carolina, Ellington said he’s not worried about the rest of the 49ers roster or anything out of his control.
“I’m just going to work hard, give it 100 (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream,” he said.
But Ellington has something the other wideouts with the team don’t have – true deep-threat speed.
“I feel like he has game speed,” Kaepernick said. “He’s faster than he looks and he can separate. So we’re very excited about what he can add to this team.”
Ellington’s high school coach, Jerry Brown, doesn’t see Ellington’s size as holding him back.
“Football’s played on a big field and it’s hard to track someone like Bruce who’s got so much agility,” he told the Associated Press.
Kaepernick says the addition of so many pass catchers – including Ellington – gives the 49ers offense an opportunity “to do a lot more” this coming season.
General manager Trent Baalke cited Ellington’s two-sport skills when he talked about why the 49ers drafted him and what his potential may be in the NFL.
“You don’t play two sports and major college football at the level he did without having something special about you,” Baalke said after the draft. “He’s a skilled athlete. He’s a competitive athlete. He’s a smart and instinctive athlete. If you put all that together, you’ve got a pretty good package.”
The question is, how much use will that package get in Ellington’s rookie year?