After San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke worked his magic during the NFL draft by snagging more picks in next year’s draft and organizing masterful trades all three days, the 49ers came away drafting 12 new players with immense talent all the way from the first round through the seventh. I have taken the liberty of analyzing each pick and figuring out which player is going to have the biggest impact for the 49ers and why they were the best pick.
After plenty analysis and arguments with myself, I am here to tell you why Bruce Ellington, the wide receiver out of South Carolina, was the best pick the 49ers made.
Let’s be honest, every 49er fan wanted a wide receiver out of the draft. Many fans were disappointed when the organization did not pick one up in the first few rounds, and they were sure to voice that displeasure on every social media site known to man.
Don’t get me wrong, with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and newly acquired receiver Stevie Johnson from Buffalo for a 4th round pick, the 49ers’ group of wideouts have some of the best hands in the NFL. The one dark spot on the 49ers receivers, and it is a big one, is their lack of game-breaking speed.
Enter Bruce Ellington. His blazing speed at South Carolina is a big reason why he was put on the map leading up to the draft and why so many General Managers around the league took a strong liking to him. It is a little baffling to me how he slipped all the way to the 4th round to be quite honest. While he will most likely not land himself a starting spot in the offense this season unless major injuries occur on the offense (knock on wood), he will most definitely be rotated into the lineup in certain offensive packages.
Ellington embodies everything the 49ers look for in a receiver. Although only 5-foot-9 and 197 pounds, this kid is never afraid to go over the middle and take a lick in order to make a play for his team. While maybe not as physical as Crabtree or Boldin, Ellington provides a deep threat that can scare the backend of a defense. His 4.45 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine showcased his explosive speed. Ellington was also a starting point guard for South Carolina, so his quickness is also very evident when he is on the field when he is able to take a five yard pitch-and-catch and torch an opposing defense by taking it 30 yards down the field. He has a knack for making defenders miss, which is huge in the NFL since creating separation from defenders is a whole lot harder than it is in college.
The reason I chose Ellington as the 49ers’ best pick is because they really only had two areas of concern entering the draft: cornerback and receiver. The Niners ended up drafting four defensive backs, so they addressed that area of concern by adding a lot of depth to the position. The other area of concern, being wide receiver, was not nearly addressed as much in the draft.
In fact, Ellington was the only receiver taken by San Francisco. But boy was he important. A lot of the corners the 49ers drafted are players that they expect to develop over time and are not going to be starters for the 49ers on day 1, with the exception of their first round pick in Jimmie Ward who is expected to compete for a spot as the team’s starting nickel corner. With that being the reason that I did not pick any of them as the 49ers best pick, I realized that Bruce Ellington could be the spark the 49ers need to get over the hump and hoist the Lombardi trophy by adding his game-changing speed and explosive plays just waiting to happen. As I have mentioned before, the 49ers have been one or two offensive plays from getting to or winning a Super Bowl the past three years, so depending on how quickly Ellington can develop can maybe determine how quickly San Francisco brings home their 6th championship.
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