When the 49ers drafted Bruce Ellington this spring, they loved his breakaway speed and athletic ability.
The former South Carolina standout wide receiver was a two-sport star for the Gamecocks, also playing guard on the basketball team.
When the 49ers took Ellington in the fourth round, they envisioned that his speed might be a great asset to stretch defenses in the passing game while also making an impact on the kick and punt return games.
Yet Ellington found himself buried on the depth chart of wide receivers behind Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Lloyd and Stevie Johnson.
Going into Saturday night’s game against the Chargers, only eight passes had been thrown his way. He had five catches for 54 yards and one touchdown, which came at the tail end of a losing game.
But in that game Saturday against the Chargers, with Crabtree, Lloyd and Johnson all hurting, Ellington got significantly more playing time. He was in on 14 snaps on offense. He had one catch for eight yards and a TD on four balls thrown his way, and also carried the ball three times for 12 yards and another score.
The 49ers gave Ellington the ball on a fly sweep for his touchdown run, a nice new wrinkle to an offense that had gotten stale.
Now, as the Niners face their final game of this season this Sunday against the Cardinals, it’s possible that Ellington will again get more action in an audition for 2015. If Ellington indeed can make plays, the addition of his speed to the offensive arsenal could be big for the 49ers next season.
“It’s great to get out there and get an opportunity,” Ellington told 49ers.com Monday. “I wanted to show what I could do. Everyone kept telling me to keep doing what I’m doing and keep working hard.”
Said fullback Bruce Miller: “Just putting him in there is pretty dynamic. We could use him a lot. He does a great job for us all the time making plays.”
With the future of Crabtree, Lloyd and Johnson with the 49ers in doubt for next season, Ellington could play a much larger role for the 49ers in 2015. Certainly, he would make the 49ers more dangerous on the deep passing game – a weakness this season.