Once you realize that your favorite team is out of playoff contention, transitioning into offseason mode can be a difficult task. Going from rooting for a win to wanting to see very specific things in a losing effort -- for draft positioning -- is often jarring for some. I'm definitely one of those -- it took until a few minutes left in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss against the San Diego Chargers for me to fully "get there."
Obviously, it would benefit the 49ers the most if they lost in Week 17, to gain better draft positioning. But the big question is what do we need or want to see in that game to build confidence heading into the offseason, or rather what needs evaluating in an actual, factual game situation before its too late to get that.
There are some bad teams with a whole lot to play for when it comes to a lost season -- head coaches that are on the brink of being fired, quarterbacks that might be auditioning for next season and things of that nature. That's not really the case with the 49ers. On top of that, there's not too many super young players that we don't have a good handle on, thanks to a slew of injuries that forced them onto the field this season.
I'm sure we're all pretty confident in guys like Carlos Hyde, Chris Borland and even Tank Carradine, to an extent. These are guys we'd like to see play well down the stretch in a lost season, just because it'd be good for them, but it's not really a huge focus in Week 17 (especially given that injuries have even decimated that secondary list).
But there was one player that got more playing time than usual on Saturday, and made the most of that playing time: wide receiver Bruce Ellington. He suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, but before that, he had put together some solid work.
Obviously, the offense is in line for a serious overhaul next season. Michael Crabtree is likely going elsewhere (and I believe he'll flourish in the right situation), Vernon Davis might be on the chopping block (hopefully), Frank Gore is likely done with the 49ers and we have no idea what kind of scheme will be run with whoever ends up taking over as head coach.
Ellington was in on 14 offensive snaps on Saturday, and managed both a touchdown reception and a touchdown rush. I'm not sure if it was always the plan to give him those snaps, but I think he's earned a long look in Week 17, provided he's healthy. We'll find out more about his status as the week progresses, but if he's good to go I'd love to see more of him.
I'd be interested to see which players you are all looking forward to watching on Sunday. I suppose Quinton Patton should get plenty of playing time again, but I wonder if Ellington simply has more upside at this point.