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49ers rookies: Best case/worst case for Bruce Ellington

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The San Francisco 49ers spent a fourth round pick on South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington. We break down some potentially realistic best and worst case scenarios.

Thearon W. Henderson

The San Francisco 49ers rookies and first year players reported to training camp on Wednesday. The 49ers will look for impact right away from some of their rookies, while others are part of the developmental process to replace veterans in the coming years. We're running through the 49ers draft picks to figure out some realistic best and worst case scenarios for their rookie seasons. Thus far, we've taken a look at defensive back Jimmie Wardrunning back Carlos Hyde, center Marcus Martin, and linebacker Chris Borland.

Today, we move on to the first of the 49ers fourth round picks, wide receiver Bruce Ellington. You may or may not have noticed we skipped third round pick Brandon Thomas. Given his April ACL injury, it is virtually a certainty he spends the season on the NFI list. The same is true for Keith Reaser, while Trey Millard has a slightly better chance of getting off the injured list during this upcoming season. I'll put together a single post at the end combining the three of them.

The 49ers entered the offseason with some solid options at wide receiver, but after injuries ravaged the group at different times in 2013, it was clear that more depth was needed. The 49ers acquired Stevie Johnson, and then acquired South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington in the fourth round.

Best Case Scenario

This could involve a combination of things. For example, he could claim the kick and punt return job away from LaMichael James. If he did that and did not contribute a lot as a rookie wide receiver, it's not necessarily the end of the world. If they get a solid return option that they can continue to develop as a wide receiver, that would be good.

However, a true best case scenario would likely also involve him getting involved in the passing game. With Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin locked in as the No. 1 and No. 2, and Stevie Johnson a strong candidate to handle No. 3 work, I'd consider a strong rookie season for Ellington involving his use in some packages specific to him. It does not necessarily even mean that he leaps Quinton Patton on the depth chart. With the three receivers already in line ahead of Ellington and Patton, it's more just finding a few plays each game to work them both in. If Greg Roman and company can figure that out, I would consider that a job well done.

Worst Case Scenario

There are a couple options. The first would be that the injury that got him on the NFI list (not believed to be serious, reportedly happened while working out on his own) ends up being serious. I'm not overly concerned about this being an issue, but we'll see what happens when practice gets going.

The other would be that the 49ers again struggle to figure out what to do with a small speedy guy. I would like to think they can work him in a little bit better than they have with LaMichael James and the run game, but the 49ers use of smaller guys on offense has not exactly been inspiring. Additionally, this worst case scenario would involve a regular season in which he does not get WR reps (even in small packages specific to him), and not getting return reps. Basically, spending all season inactive. It's a bit more pessimistic than I normally am for even a worst case scenario, but it's on the radar.