The San Francisco 49ers continue to praise third-year RB LaMichael James despite his lack of production as a change of pace back. A player that’s been delegated to special-teams as a return specialist, James has done a nice job in that limited role. However, with the addition of fourth-round pick (No. 106) WR Bruce Ellington, James’ tenure with the team may have abruptly ended, as the 49ers will give Ellington every opportunity to win the job.
A coach and General Manager that loves to breed competition, you can be sure the James verse Ellington camp battle will be closely monitored. And if Ellington can show some life with his athleticism during training camp, do not be surprised if he starts the preseason as the No. 1 return specialist for the 49ers. At 5-9 and 197 pounds, Ellington has the speed, agility, and athleticism to make a splash on special-teams. In 2013, Ellington finished with 49 catches for 775 receiving yards and eight touchdowns while being a dual-threat in the return game with 43 kick returns for 977 return yards.
In addition, GM Trent Baalke who was looking for a slot receiver via free-agency, but was unable to land WR Julian Edelman and WR Emmanuel Sanders now has a younger Ellington at his disposal, who can not only return kickoffs but be a shifty slot receiver. At the NFL scouting combine Ellington wowed scouts with his measurable as he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, had a 39.5-inch vertical, 120-inch broad-jump, and 3.95 short shuttle.
Ellington spoke on the possibility of being the primary return man as he said, “I have a little bit of experience doing it. I did it in college. I did it a little bit in high school. So, I’m going to be comfortable doing it. I’m ready to come in and do whatever the coaches ask me to do, kick return, punt return, kickoff, punt, whatever it is I’m going to be ready to do.”
With the 49ers rookies getting acclimated to their surroundings at Santa Clara headquarters, it will be interesting to see how Ellington will fare throughout this off-season. From rookie camp, training camp, to the preseason, Ellington will make some big time plays just like WR Quinton Patton did last year, as he tries to win the coaching staff over with his return ability. And with James missing “voluntary OTA’s” that just leaves more opportunities on the table for Ellington to excel. And I believe he will, as James will likely be released as a final 53-man roster cut.