49ers draft South Carolina WR Ellington

By CRAIG MASSEI - Associated Press
    2014-05-10 14:48

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers waited until the fourth round Saturday to add the speedy vertical threat to their passing game that many expected them to grab near the top of the NFL draft.

Two-sport star Bruce Ellington may prove worth the wait.

The 49ers selected the South Carolina product with the 106th overall pick in the fourth round, bringing to San Francisco an explosive prospect that will challenge for a regular role in the team's passing game behind starters Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree.

The 49ers always are on the lookout for athletes in the draft, and Ellington displayed his merit in college on both the football field and basketball court, where he was a three-year starter at point guard.

He also was a two-year starter at wide receiver for the Gamecocks after not playing football as a freshman. But as Ellington developed on the gridiron, he determined his future as a professional was there. He led South Carolina last season in receptions (49), receiving yards (775) and touchdown receptions (8) while averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

''I finally realized football is what I want to do,'' Ellington said. ''It was pretty difficult because I love to compete and I love playing both sports. They just told me to come in here and be ready to compete. I'm going to be ready to do that and ready to come in and help build the program even better than what it is now.''

Ellington brings to San Francisco's program the field-stretching speed and athletic burst the 49ers are looking to add to an attack that ranked 30th in the NFL last season in passing offense.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds at the NFL Combine. He also had a vertical leap of 39.5 inches, showing off the hops that led to Ellington's highlight reel of basketball dunks despite standing only 5-foot-9.

The 49ers have been seeking a legitimate speed element in their passing game since Jim Harbaugh arrived to coach the team in 2011. That component was sorely lacking most of last season, when Crabtree missed the first 11 games after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in May.

San Francisco was expected to use one or more of its five selections among the draft's top 100 picks on a wide receiver. But after signing veteran Brandon Lloyd during the offseason and trading a 2015 draft pick to Buffalo on Friday to acquire veteran Stevie Johnson, the 49ers instead finally tapped the position on the draft's final day.

''I know those guys can play, and I'm going to learn from them,'' said Ellington. ''They're going to help me become a better player. I feel like I have a lot of growth because I've only played (receiver) for three years. There's a lot more things that I can put in my game and become a better player.''

Ellington said his basketball experience will help with that. He started 66 games at South Carolina, where he was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team.

He left the team last winter after playing just three games of his senior season, opting to focus on football All-Star games and preparing for the draft.

''Playing (point guard) has helped me (at receiver),'' Ellington said. ''You want to be the best player on the court. Because you're the point guard, you've got to lead everybody that's around you. I think that's going to help a lot when I get to the NFL.''

With their next two picks Saturday, the 49ers bolstered last season's fifth-ranked defense by selecting North Carolina State cornerback Dontae Johnson with the 129th overall pick in the fourth round and South Florida linebacker Aaron Lynch with the 150th overall pick in the fifth round.