The San Francisco 49ers decided not to be active in the trade market when it came to their first selection on Day 3 of the 2014 NFL draft, instead drafting South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington with the sixth pick in Round 4.
He was a great value pick at this point in the draft. With the 49ers having partially addressed their receiving needs by trading for Stevie Johnson, general manager Trent Baalke filled out the remaining portion of the need by tabbing Ellington.
At 5'9" and 197 pounds, he is more of the speedy, undersized receiver—perhaps similar in mold to some of the other smaller wideouts that the 49ers could have pursued earlier in the draft.
Eric Branch of SFGate.com elaborates further:
The 49ers obviously have a need for speed and they hope they addressed it with their first of two selections in the fourth round: South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington. Ellington (5-9, 197), who had the 11th-fastest 40-yard time (4.45) among 42 wide receivers at the combine, was a first-team all-SEC pick last year after collecting 49 catches for 775 yards (15.8 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns.
During his three seasons at South Carolina, Ellington posted 106 receptions for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also contributed as a returner on special teams.
What Ellington lacks in size, he more than makes up for in speed and elusiveness.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports points this out in his scouting report: "Excellent quickness at the snap to avoid press coverage. Possesses the burst to put defenders on their heels, as well as very good lateral agility and a hesitation move that leaves corners guessing."
Rang also notes that Ellington has excellent hands despite being undersized. These attributes will help him contribute upon maturation at the NFL level.
While he will compete for a role as the 49ers' slot receiver, Ellington should be able to contribute on special teams right away.
This gives him added versatility and could also give Baalke enough reason to finally part ways with running back LaMichael James, who has voiced displeasure over his limited role with the team.
As stated, the primary mark against Ellington is his size—specifically his height.
While his frame is excellent at this size, he could have trouble lining up against some of the taller, more physical defensive backs he will face at the NFL level.
Rang also states that Ellington was not asked by the Gamecocks to run a full route tree. CBS Sports' Pete Prisco reiterates the sentiment by describing him as being "still very raw as a route-runner."
He has a ways to go before emerging as a legitimate threat out of the slot. His rawness may hinder his chances to contribute significantly in his rookie season.
The 49ers will have to be patient with him, at least on offense, for a while. But they've shown willingness to do so before.
San Francisco needed speed at wide receiver entering this draft.
While the team missed out on some of the more elite, speedy wideouts early on, Baalke could have done far worse than tab Ellington at this point. He had been touted by CBS Sports as a late second- or early third-round pick, so the 49ers got a good value by drafting him in the fourth round.
“It’s kind of a drop the mic walk-off,” ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer remarked after the selection:
The budding wideout can contribute right away on special teams and should enter the competition for slot receiver. It may take him a season or two to get completely acclimated to the NFL level, but there is no questioning his explosive talents.
This is a phenomenal pick for Baalke and the offense. Ellington can be groomed and developed, hopefully having a chance to successfully impact the receiving game in future seasons.
As always, be sure to stay tuned to this author's coverage and analysis of each 49ers pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.