Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
Injuries have defined the San Francisco 49ers career of wide receiver Bruce Ellington, and whether or not he even has a shot at sticking with the team has to be in question. Ellington, a fourth-round pick in 2014, has played in 26 regular season games but missed all of last season with a hamstring injury.
Brought on to the team to be a slot receiver and potential kick returner, Ellington was seen as a speedy, shifty player who could be a real headache with two starting receivers drawing attention away from him.
Occasionally, he’s been in that situation and has failed to deliver. More often, though, he’s been asked to do far more than was originally expected of him out of South Carolina and he’s spent most of his career with sub-par quarterback play.
His route running has never been particularly impressive, and his shifty nature has been hampered by nagging injuries even when he’s been on the field.
Ellington has just 19 receptions for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a pro. He also has 35 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and four fumbles to his name. He averaged 25.6 yards per kick return and 7.2 yards per punt return in 2015.
Ultimately, Ellington has been a whole lot of promise with no substance and no return on that promise. He’s had opportunities and he’s underwhelmed in those opportunities. Others were ruined by injuries, which we cannot blame on him but they’re troubling nonetheless.
At 25 years old, Ellington is recovering from a hamstring injury but this offseason has already missed minicamp practice time with an unrelated soft tissue injury. Sound familiar? On July 27 last year, Oscar wrote that “three consecutive years with a soft tissue injury is certainly alarming.”
On August 22, Fooch wrote that Ellington returned to 49ers practice and that he could be an impact player if he could remain healthy. This was coming off an ankle sprain. Eight days later, Fooch wrote about Ellington’s season-ending injury and what it meant for the team’s wide receiver depth chart.
With a new head coach and plenty of high-ceiling receivers on the roster, Ellington is in a precarious position going forward.
Age: 26 on Aug. 22
Experience: 4th season
Weight: 197 lbs
Ellington is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. He has a cap hit of $808,607 for the season. If he was to be released, the 49ers would save $690,000 against the 2017 cap with $118,607 in dead money. Either way, nothing about his cap situation is particularly concerning so it shouldn’t be a factor in the ultimate decision on his 2017 fate.
Why he might improve in 2017
I’ve never got the feeling that Ellington is a player who would easily give up, and he knows that this is realistically his last chance to regain the confidence of the team that spent a draft pick on him. It’s a new general manager and a new head coach, and while that means there are a lot of new faces to compete with, a healthy Ellington is a game opponent. He’s young, he’s motivated and the 49er don’t have a long list of amazing receivers to compete with.
Why he might regress in 2017
While the list of receivers on the roster isn’t incredibly impressive, there are few spots up for grabs. Ellington is likely competing for a spot on the roster that won’t afford him much playing time, if any, and he simply could get lost in the shuffle. There’s no guarantee he will be a good fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and the nature of his injuries being so similar over the years could be a sign his body just can’t handle the NFL these days.
Odds of making the roster
With the top spots all but guaranteed going to Pierre Garçon and Jeremy Kerley, Ellington is, at best, competing with Marquise Goodwin for the third receiver spot and at worst competing with a list of players that includes DeAndre Smelter, Trent Taylor, Rashad Ross, Aldrick Robinson, BJ Johnson III, Aaron Burbridge, Kendrick Bourne, and Victor Bolden Jr, though that list is changing seemingly daily.
Ellington is competing with all of those guys for spots four and five on the roster, and even if they keep six receivers Ellington isn’t necessarily guaranteed a spot. His high ceiling is the only thing working for him here, though I personally have very little hope that Ellington can produce for the 49ers. His odds can’t be above 60 percent for making the roster.