While the depth charts on the San Francisco 49ers website states that it is unofficial, rookie wide receiver Bruce Ellington is penciled in ahead of running back LaMichael James for the lead spot at kick return and punt return.
Ellington saw a lot of work during the preseason and was able to showcase the talents that made him the Niners fourth-round pick and the team's leading receiver in the preseason. Ellington led the team in catches and yards but showed great agility and play making ability in space.
James entered camp knowing that he would be fighting carries during the regular season with a crowded backfield, but figured to be the leading return man after grabbing hold of the position last year. While he has underachieved in the backfield, his elusiveness and speed that made him a star at the University of Oregon allowed James to become a solid return man. James ranked 14th in the NFL in punt-return average with 10.9 yards last year while averaging just under 27 yards on his 12 kick returns.
Once James dislocated his elbow, just two weeks into camp, Ellington began taking reps as the teams primary return man. Ellington showcased a potential preview during the Niners preseason finally in Houston against the Texans with a nifty 44-yard punt return.
When Ellington was asked about his potential position win, the rookie told reporters, "I don't know," Ellington said. "I think LaMichael is the guy who did it last year and he's good at what he does. I'm just going to practice every day and get better at what I do. Whatever the coaches decide, that's what's going to happen."
However, according to CSN's Matt Miaocco, it is not known if the Niners intend on leaving Ellington as the top dog and that "in the past, 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said Bob Lange, the director of communications, filled out the unofficial depth chart that is distributed to the media."
"Nothing against Bob," Harbaugh said last year. "…I wouldn't read too much into it."
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