Brandon Aiyuk to the San Francisco 49ers: A Dream Pairing?
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is the newest member of the San Francisco 49ers, slotting in as the 25th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Landing in San Francisco is a potential boon for Aiyuk's dynasty and fantasy outlook, given the lack of competition on the depth chart behind Deebo Samuel. One factor working against Aiyuk's near-term success his the core muscle surgery he had early April. Without a clear timetable for OTAs, however, it's possible he's afforded some extra recovery time as a rookie.
Aiyuk transferred to the Arizona State Sun Devils after two JUCO seasons, compiling a pedestrian 33-catch season as a junior. Then he exploded as a senior, producing 65 catches, 1,192 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns on 18.3 yards per catch. Those 8 touchdowns represent 38.1% of Arizona State's receiving touchdowns in 2019, while he also accounted for 36.8% of the team's receiving yards.
One feather in his cap is Aiyuk's work in the return game, where we've seen success translate to playmaking skills at the NFL level (think Tyreek Hill, Deebo Samuel and many more). While not on Hill's level as a returner, his senior year, Aiyuk averaged 16.1 yards per punt return, added a touchdown, and also netted an average of 31.9 yards per kick return.
He ranks 18th in JJ Zachariason's final prospect rankings, with his late breakout age working against him in JJ's prospect model. Still, the production was there, and his Dominator Rating ranks in the 82nd percentile.
Aiyuk's size and athleticism give him a shot to succeed at the pro level. He's 6'0" and 205 lbs with a 92nd-percentile burst score. While running a 4.50 forty was slower than expected, it's possible the core injury he had repaired was hurting his flat line speed.
What to Expect
This is one of the most exciting landing spots Aiyuk could have landed in. Not only did Niners GM John Lynch trade up six spots to land him, but never once has a Kyle Shanahan-led offense drafted a receiver in the first round under his tenure. Not once. It's clear Shanahan has big plans for Aiyuk in this offense which ranked seventh-best in offense last year, per our metrics.
Ultimately, there are certainly questions with Aiyuk, given his late college breakout and recent surgery. At the same time, his size, athleticism and skillset are a perfect blend for a quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo, who is best when getting the ball out quickly and letting receivers win after the catch. In fact, no quarterback had a higher percentage of yards from yards after catch than Jimmy G did in 2019.
Aiyuk's ability to run clean routes and win after the catch should be an immediate upgrade for Garoppolo. With Deebo only running 15% of his routes in the slot in 2019, there's also room for Aiyuk to play both inside and out.
For dynasty, Aiyuk slots in as an easy top-10 pick. His path to re-draft success is more complicated in a run-first offense with Samuel and Kittle ahead of him on the target totem pole. For now, consider him an up-and-down WR4 with legitimate WR3 appeal in best ball drafts.