Size-obsessed 49ers coach Chip Kelly typically likes tall, long-armed receivers. But the wideout he discussed – unprompted – this week is the team’s smallest.
Kelly listed Bruce Ellington, who measures 5-foot-9 and 197 pounds, among the more “intriguing” players he inherits with the 49ers.
“When you look at just the short time that I’ve seen just film of him you’re like, ‘Wow – that kid can do some interesting things,’ ” Kelly said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “Then it’s our job to figure out how we can use that to help us win games.”
Ellington is perhaps the 49ers’ quickest wideout, and he’s elusive after the catch. Injuries, however, have slowed his progress, and the 49ers mostly have used him as a returner on special teams.
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Since being taken in the fourth round out of South Carolina in 2014, Ellington has 19 catches for 215 yards. Last year, he was on the field for only 14 percent of the team’s snaps.
Ellington sometimes has lined up as a running back in the backfield, and that sort of dual-threat role may pique Kelly’s curiosity as well. No matter how he’s used, Ellington and the rest of the team’s wideouts are certain to be leaned on more than they’ve been in recent years.
Kelly used three-receiver formations 69.3 percent of the time last season in Philadelphia, according to Pro Football Focus, and he kept six wideouts on the active roster. The 49ers, by contrast, used a three-receiver set on 41 percent of their plays in 2015.
When he was with the Eagles, Kelly said he preferred big receivers because they are strong enough to beat one-on-one coverage, which defenses often used to try to slow down his up-tempo attacks.
In 2014, for instance, Philadelphia spent a second-round pick on 6-3, 212-pound wideout Jordan Matthews, who led the team last year with 85 catches and eight touchdowns.
Other Eagles draft picks weren’t exactly giants.
One round after taking Matthews, they took former Oregon wideout Josh Huff (5-11, 206) and last year used a first-round pick on Nelson Agholor (6-1, 198) from USC.
The 49ers have good size at the position, although they lack experience, especially if veteran Anquan Boldin leaves via free agency next month.
Torrey Smith (6-0, 205) and Quinton Patton (6-0, 204) are the only receivers with at least 30 catches last season signed for 2016. Other options include Jerome Simpson (6-2, 190); DeAndre Smelter (6-2, 227), who spent his rookie season recovering from an ACL injury; and Eric Rogers (6-3, 210), who led the Canadian Football League last year with 1,448 receiving yards and tied for the league lead with 10 touchdown catches.
The top prospects in this year’s draft include 6-2 Laquon Treadwell from Mississippi and 6-3 Josh Doctson from TCU.