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Golden Nuggets: Did the 49ers get another Emmanuel Sanders in Brandon Aiyuk?

Head coach Kyle Shanahan believes so.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One thing we have learned about San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan is how much he values speed and versatility. The Niners selected receivers Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel in back-to-back years, and followed that up by selecting Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk at the 2020 NFL Draft.

There will be pressure on Aiyuk to deliver during his rookie campaign, despite the challenges of an unconventional offseason due to the pandemic. Aiyuk is expected to help fill the void left by the departed Emmanuel Sanders, who helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl.

ESPN’s Nick Wagoner caught up with Shanahan to discuss what the head coach is expecting from the the 22-year-old Aiyuk:

“It didn’t matter where you put him and it didn’t matter what the play was, and that’s what we got a little bit with Emmanuel when we traded for him, and that’s what I think we’re getting with Brandon. This guy wants to be great. I want someone like that. And I think he has the tools to be great. I think he has the mindset to be great, and I promise you schematically we’re going to give him every chance to do that.”

As a veteran, Sanders obviously brought intangibles that Aiyuk won’t be able to to meet in his first season. Samuel effusively praised Sanders for the leadership the veteran brought when he was acquired from the Denver Broncos last year, and how much he helped his week-to-week preparation.

But, what about the on-field production? I trust Shanahan will give Aiyuk plenty of opportunities, especially on screens and sweeps due to his speed, but the Niners do need a receiver to step up behind Samuel to make some big plays.

Let’s compare some of the numbers from 49ers receivers of the past and present from their rookie season.

Samuel: 55 receptions for 802 yards and 961 total yards from scrimmage. Six total touchdowns.

Jerry Rice: 49 receptions for 927 yards and 953 total yard from scrimmage. Four total touchdowns.

Michael Crabtree: 48 receptions for 625 yards and two touchdowns. (Crabtree did not have a rushing attempt during his rookie year.)

Terrell Owens: 35 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns. (Owens did not have a rushing attempt during his rookie year.)

The averages between the four players works out to: 46 receptions, 718 yards and four touchdowns.

If we use the averages between the four players listed above, will Aiyuk be over or under the following totals in each category: 46.5 receptions, 718.5 yards, 4.5 total touchdowns?

On to some more links:

The 49ers’ receiving group will have a spotlight on them in 2020. NBC Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson breaks down PFF’s assessment that Samuel and Kendrick Bourne enhanced the Niners’ offense last season.

With so much happening around the country, 49ers’ CEO Jed York decided to make a contribution. 49ers Web Zone’s David Bonilla summed up York’s $1 million donation to organizations that are creating change.

We know rookie Javon Kinlaw will be a big part of the Niners’ plans at defensive tackle. Kyle Madson of Niners Wire breaks down how the rotation looks after Kinlaw.

Kinlaw will have a difficult time filling DeForest Buckner’s shoes, but he might be closer than you think. The SF Chronicle’s Eric Branch wrote a nice piece on how Kinlaw is receiving rave reviews so far.

Another story on a 49ers receiver. Fansided’s Nick Di Marco examines why Dante Pettis is a cut candidate because of San Francisco’s 2020 draft.