Pro Football Focus ranked the top 32 wide receivers ahead of the 2022 NFL season and ranked them in tiers. Unfortunately for Brandon Aiyuk, he didn’t find himself on the list. Names like Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, and Darnell Mooney made it over Aiyuk, who has yet to surpass 900 receiving yards in a season early in his career.
Ideally, Aiyuk breaks out in Year 3 like his teammate Deebo Samuel, who found himself ninth on PFF’s list, which was one spot outside of the “elite” category:
Since the end of the 2021 season, Samuel’s status as a 49er has been in flux. But while San Francisco may not be the team that will pay him the most money, it is the one that can best utilize his dynamism.
Previously self-dubbed a “wide-back,” Samuel can make plays both as a receiver and runner, and he was one of four wide receivers to earn an elite PFF grade above 90.0. He averaged an NFL-leading 10.8 yards after the catch per reception while shedding 27 tackles. On the ground, Samuel picked up 14 explosive runs of 10-plus yards and broke 28 tackles on 86 carries.
The wideouts listed ahead of Deebo were Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and Mike Evans.
There’s nothing to say about Deebo and what he did last year that already hasn’t been said. I want to talk about Aiyuk and see if 2022 is the year he puts it all together. On Tuesday, Shanahan said Aiyuk realized he had to put more work in and has started to figure out what it takes to be successful in this league each year.
If players like Brandin Cooks and Hunter Renfrow can crack the top-32, then Aiyuk surely can. The ghost of Julio Jones was listed at No. 20. He’s a free agent coming off a season where he had 434 yards receiving.
Aiyuk enters the season with a defined role. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say he’ll have more than one game in 2022 where he has more than ten targets, which was the case last season. Working out this offseason with Trey Lance won’t hurt.
If Aiyuk winds up being Lance’s security blanket or go-to receiver on obvious passing downs, he’ll find himself closer to 15 than 32 when we’re looking at wide receiver rankings this time next year.