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Golden Nuggets: Where will Brandon Aiyuk rank among rookie receivers?

The NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund ranked her top-10 most productive receivers going into 2020

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The 2020 NFL Draft was loaded with potential at the wide receiver position. Going into the draft, many pundits thought the San Francisco 49ers would target a wideout with the No. 13 pick.

Niners’ general manager John Lynch and co. traded back one spot and selected defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, with their first of two first-round picks. It looked like the 49ers may wait until the 31st selection to address their need at the position, but Lynch made another deal, this time moving up to No. 25 to pick Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund compiled her top-10 list of rookie receivers she thinks will be the most productive in 2020, and ranked Aiyuk No. 7:

“At ASU, Aiyuk earned the second-most receiving yards after contact last season (378) among FBS receivers, per PFF, which helped him earn the fifth-most overall yards after the catch (710). With the departure from San Francisco of veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who led the team with 29.3 percent of the Niners’ air yards after arriving via trade in Week 8 last season (per NGS), the opportunity exists for Aiyuk to be an immediate contributor. However, his upside is tempered by the presence of other young receivers (like Kendrick Bourne and Deebo Samuel), who also will realize increased opportunities. For now, this nets out at Aiyuk ranking No. 57 among WRs.”

Here is how Frelund has her top-six, and where she has the receivers ranked in her model among all NFL receivers in brackets: 1. CeeDee Lamb - Cowboys (38), 2. Henry Ruggs III - Raiders (42), 3. Michael Pittman Jr. - Colts (43), 4. Justin Jefferson - Vikings (45), 5. Jerry Jeudy - Broncos (48), 6. Denzel Mims - Jets (54).

San Francisco was in position to take every player listed above except Ruggs who went 12th. Lamb, Jeudy and Jefferson were available at No. 14, but the Niners’ brass passed on all three. Pittman and Mims both went in the second-round.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan hopped on The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami’s podcast after the draft, and explained why the 49ers like Aiyuk:

“When I look at Aiyuk I like that he can run every single route,” Shanahan said. “He can run them from all three positions. The toughness he plays with. He’s a very smart player. He can do everything. He did time out a 4.5 (40-yard dash), but he had one of the fastest (10-yard splits) in the draft, which means I think he can get from zero to 10 yards as fast as anyone, and that translates pretty well. And I do think he runs better than his 4.5 on tape. You look at like his GPS times, which we get a lot of, and he’s one of the faster receivers that’s recorded in games. So, I like how he plays.”

We don’t know how the pandemic will impact the individual rookies. With less time at the team facility, and receiving in-person coaching, some of their stats may not be as good as they could have with a regular offseason.

Aiyuk should get plenty of opportunities to make big plays in Shanahan’s system. We saw what Deebo Samuel did as a rookie when he was used as a weapon in both the passing, and run games.

What do you think of Frelund’s list? Who do you think will be the top-five rookie receivers in terms of production in 2020?

On to some more links:

Most in 49ers’ land are thrilled with Shanahan’s extension. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner explains why it was an important step for the team’s future.

Tight end George Kittle’s contract extension will be a hot-button topic until it is resolved. Matt Maiocco of NBC Bay Area caught up with Kittle’s agent to discuss the complications surrounding the new deal.

One former All-Pro receiver is high extremely high on Samuel going into his second season. 49ers Web Zone’s David Bonilla highlights what Chad Johnson had to say about Deebo on social media.

Speaking of receivers, what are some of the question marks surrounding the Niners’ group? Fansided’s Peter Panacy looks at three things that could impact the 49ers receivers next year.

Some members of the San Francisco offense are working out in Nashville alongside quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Check out which offensive players made the trip to get some on-field work outs in together. (Bonilla)

The Arizona Cardinals have been picked by many to be one of the most improved teams going into next season. SI’s Nicholas Cothrel breaks down what to expect from the Cards in 2020.