Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
It was a much longer wait than expected, but the San Francisco 49ers finally selected a wide receiver when they added Bruce Ellington in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Ellington is an exciting player that adds a skill set the 49ers did not previously have at the position.
When evaluating Ellington's game tape, there was a lot to be excited about. He has some work to do with regards to his route running and catching the ball away from his body, but his athleticism and ability after the catch are fantastic. Ellington's experience as the starting point guard on South Carolina's basketball team is very prevalent in his game. He's very comfortable with bodies around him and is able to string together multiple moves while maintaining his balance and continuing to move forward.
Much like San Francisco's first round pick, Jimmie Ward, Ellington is a tough, physical player that plays larger than his frame. He's such an effective blocker at the wide receiver position that South Carolina would occasionally motion him down next to the tight end as a wing player in short-yardage situations and he was frequently able to haul in receptions while absorbing contact from a defender.
Expected 2014 impact:
As much as I like Ellington's skill set, it's difficult envisioning him having a big impact during his rookie season. Beyond the difficulties of overcoming what has become a loaded top end of the wide receiver depth chart, the reality is that rookie wide receivers, especially those that aren't selected towards the top of the draft, don't tend to perform very well during their first season. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have only been 33 rookie receivers who were selected in the fourth round or later to crack even 500 yards – just over 31 yards per game – in a season.
We went through a similar situation last season when the 49ers selected Quinton Patton in the fourth round. Patton is a talented player and there's plenty of reason to be excited about his future, but in the nine games he played in last season (including playoffs), he managed just five receptions for 59 yards.
Toss in the fact that San Francisco uses three wide receivers less than any team in the NFL and that Ellington is likely to be the fifth receiver on the depth chart, there just aren't going to be many snaps for Ellington to get. The 49ers will rotate the wide receivers they use and I think Ellington is talented enough to warrant at least a handful of snaps per game but he was drafted to make an impact down the road.
Odds of making the roster:
With Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson all being roster locks, that will leave Ellington realistically competing with Quinton Patton, Brandon Lloyd, Jon Baldwin and Kassim Osgood for at most three spots. Something would have to go horribly wrong for Ellington to not survive out of that group. Ideally, San Francisco will decide to keep six receivers, hanging on to the youngsters Patton and Ellington along with Osgood for special teams purposes while parting ways with Lloyd and Baldwin.