The San Francisco 49ers have had a hit and a miss on their last two second-round picks, both of which play the same position. Deebo Samuel had an excellent rookie season for the Niners in 2019, while 2017 draft pick Dante Pettis hasn’t quite lived up to his potential.
In this year’s NFL Draft, the 49ers took another wideout, picking Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk 25th overall. Aiyuk’s speed and potential to be a YAC monster make him an intriguing prospect.
The 22-year-old tweaked his hamstring and hasn’t been participating in full-team drills since. Head coach Kyle Shanahan hasn’t ruled Aiyuk out for Sunday’s opener against the Arizona Cardinals, but we will know more when the official injury report is released later today.
Aiyuk’s speed was on full display early on in training camp. He seemed to be finding his groove with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo before the injury, so hopefully, that will continue when he returns to the field.
If Aiyuk can suit up for all 16 games, how will his numbers look compared to Samuel’s from last year?
Samuel put up some impressive stats in 2019, finishing the year with 57 catches for 802 yards and three scores while adding 159 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. If Aiyuk can come close to these numbers, it would be a massive bonus to San Francisco’s offense.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system should give plenty of opportunities for Aiyuk to shine. Aiyuk averaged a national-best 9.9 yards after the catch last year with the Sun Devils. Hall of Famer Michael Irvin was on 95.7 The Game, and he’s confident Shanahan will maximize the skills of the receivers.
“Kyle Shanahan is a brilliant, brilliant head coach. He will only put guys in situations that he knows they’ll feel comfortable putting them in early. He’s brilliant at that, so he’ll spot those guys and give them those opportunities.”
Aiyuk won’t have a veteran mentor like Samuel did last season with Emmanuel Sanders. This took the pressure off of Samuel to be the No. 1 receiver, and he learned some of the tricks of the trade from Sanders.
Aiyuk’s development may take some extra time due to the unprecedented offseason NFL teams faced due to the pandemic, but he certainly has the capabilities to come in and have an immediate impact.
Samuel broke Jerry Rice’s record for receptions by a rookie last season. Rice still holds the record for most receiving yards by a 49ers rookie with 927.
How do you think Aiyuk’s receiving numbers will look compared to Rice and Samuel’s first year? How many receptions and yards do you think he finish with?