This is my Sunday news story on Day 3 of the 49ers’ draft.
SANTA CLARA — The 49ers waited until the final day of the draft to address almost all of their biggest needs.
First, a speed receiver. The 49ers used the sixth pick of the fourth round to take Bruce Ellington from the University of South Carolina. Ellington immediately becomes the 49ers’ fastest receiver, and their shortest receiver, too. He’s 5-foot-9, and he runs a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. He’s probably too short to become a starting flanker or split end, but he could become an effective slot receiver and return man.
“He’s a versatile, very good athlete,” Jim Harbaugh said following the draft. “Looking forward to exploring how many ways we can use him.”
Ellington led South Carolina in receiving yards the past two seasons, and caught 10 touchdown passes in 21 career games against SEC opponents. Compare that to LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, the 12th overall pick, who caught just three touchdown passes in 25 career games against SEC opponents. Small receivers usually don’t catch many touchdowns, but Ellington does.
After taking Ellington, the 49ers drafted three cornerbacks — North Carolina State’s Dontae Johnson at pick No. 129, Florida Atlantic’s Keith Reaser at pick No. 170 and Southern Methodist’s Kenneth Acker at pick No. 180. Johnson is the biggest of the three — 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Last season, he actually started seven games at safety and just five games at cornerback. But he has the size, speed and agility to develop into an effective NFL cornerback in a few years.
“A lot of teams were looking at me as a press corner just because of my length and my speed,” Johnson said Saturday afternoon during a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
Johnson is just an inch shorter than the best press corner in the NFL — Richard Sherman.
Does Johnson see himself in Sherman?
“He’s a great athlete, a great competitor,” Johnson said, “but his success came from his work ethic. Hopefully, I can be half the man that he is and bring that work ethic to practice.”
With the 10th pick in Round 5, the 49ers drafted a 6-foot-5 defensive end — Aaron Lynch — who is almost the same exact size as Aldon Smith. Should the NFL suspend Smith for a few games next season, Lynch can fill in.
Lynch was a high school phenom, the third-best defensive end prospect coming out of high school in 2010 according to Rivals.com. Lynch played just two seasons in college. As a freshman at Notre Dame, he recorded 5.5 sacks in six starts. But he transferred to the University of South Florida and had to sit out the 2012 season. In 2013, he had just five sacks in 10 starts.
In his scouting report, NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki accuses Lynch of “going through the motions” on the field. If he goes through the motions during the 49ers’ training camp, he might not make their final roster.
“We feel like we can work with this youngster,” Harbaugh said. “We feel like he is going to be a willing listener. It’s not going to be easy, but I can’t wait to get started on that process.”
The one big need the 49ers did not address in this draft is a quarterback. The 49ers didn’t draft one. Instead, they signed an undrafted free agent after Round 7 — Kory Faulkner from Southern Illinois. — but it will be hard for him to make the team. If Colin Kaepernick gets hurt or misses time for any reason next season, the 49ers will have to turn to the backup, Blaine Gabbert, whose career passer rating is 66.