With the 25th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the 49ers select Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk …
Brandon Aiyuk Career Statistics
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A JUCO transfer, Aiyuk went to Arizona State after a pursuit by Alabama to be their return specialist and potentially play defensive back. He chose correctly in his opportunity to become a featured wide receiver. After playing alongside a first-round pick in N’Keal Harry in 2018, Aiyuk got his chance to shine in 2019. Aiyuk broke out is a big way this past season with 27.9% of the team receptions and well over a third of their receiving yardage and touchdowns through the air.
Aiyuk (6’0”, 205) is strong after the catch (10.9 YAC in 2019) which goes along with that stellar return resume that was coveted by schools. In two years at Arizona State, Aiyuk averaged 27.1 yards per kickoff return and 11.7 yards per punt return, with 31.9 yard (14 kickoff returns), and 16.1-yard marks (14 punt returns) in 2019. Aiyuk still needs growth in beating press coverage, but his immediate contributions in the screen and quick slant game, vertically and in the return game are all potential trump cards for his shortcomings.
The 49ers did not really have a replacement for the role tat Emmanuel Sanders held with their only vertical wideouts currently on the roster being Travis Benjamin and Marquise Goodwin, who are far from polished receivers that can press the defense on multiple levels like Sanders did. Asking Aiyuk to do that out of the box is a lot to ask, but he does bring a lot of YAC ability to a team that thrives on YAC generating a lot of their passing yardage. Last year, 54.2% of Jimmy Garoppolo’s yardage came from yards after the catch, the highest rate for passers that took 50% of their team dropbacks.
Once the 49ers added Sanders a year ago, Garoppolo averaged 266.4 passing yards per game and 8.6 yards per pass attempt as opposed to 219.0 yards per game and 7.9 Y/A. Sanders himself only averaged 5.3 targets per game.