The San Francisco 49ers did not add a lot of depth at the wide receiver position this year, but it is likely due to the intriguing young options at their disposal entering the offseason. Anquan Boldin remains a free agent, but rather than add another veteran in his place, the team is giving plenty of opportunities to guys like Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, DeAndre Smelter, and Eric Rogers, among others. The question now is how they'll run with it.
Last week, safety Antoine Bethea was asked which wide receivers were standing out. The first player he mentioned was Bruce Ellington. He said, "I would say right now Bruce Ellington is having a great offseason. He's moving well, catching the ball, putting himself in a position to get a ball in his hand." He also mentioned Jerome Simpson, but was particularly enthusiastic about Ellington.
On Wednesday, wide receiver Torrey Smith sat down with the 49ers Studios staff for a Q&A (video). He was asked which receivers were stepping up, and he also mentioned Ellington. He mentioned him in connection with Quinton Patton and others, but he said, "Especially Bruce, I mean he's really stepped it up. He's playing better than ever, and he's always had the talent, it's just about having the opportunity, and I think right now, it's his time and he's taking advantage of it."
This is all just shorts, jerseys, and helmets, so we certainly can't assume this will result in a huge breakout season. But hearing two veterans separately talking about his offseason is interesting, to say the least. He has a chance to become a fairly unique weapon in Chip Kelly's offense. He does not have the size Kelly looks for in traditional wide receivers, but his ability to work from a variety of roles should help. In his fairly limited offensive opportunities the last two years, the team has used him split out wide, and in the backfield. I suspect Kelly will look to do that and more with him this fall.