Brandon Aiyuk’s stock continues to rise after his best season as a professional in 2022. In a recent press conference, Aiyuk stated, “he’s about to take off.” Following a 1,015 receiving yard season, that is an exciting idea for 2023.
I had a chance to sit down with Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports and creator of Reception Perception to discuss both 49ers wideouts, specifically, what makes Brandon Aiyuk exceptional.
Me: You’re a big Brandon Aiyuk guy. Before we get into the reception perception side of it, tell me what are some of the things you saw in Arizona State because he was regarded as a bit of a “raw route runner,” I would say.
What drew you to him immediately, especially considering you have a draft where CeeDee Lamb comes off the board and other receivers come off the board that were highly regarded, like Jerry Jeudy, and Aiyuk felt like someone who was laying in the weeds a little bit?
Matt: Yeah, and to be honest with you, not that I thought he was a bad draft pick, or I thought he was a bad prospect, I certainly didn’t expect to like him in the NFL as much as I have liked him in the NFL.
Because, like you mentioned, there was some raw route running there. Now, I sort of pushed back, and my business partner, my podcast partner, James Koh and I just talked about this on our recent show because he’s a big Pac-12 guy, like a full Pac-12 sicko, will stay up until all of those games are over.
He pushed back on the notion, and so did I, that he was sort of a gadgety “create a touch” type player, now he was really awesome as a YAC player, there’s no doubt about that, and I think that was really exciting and was probably one of the things that really drew Kyle Shananan to Brandon Aiyuk, that he was so good in the YAC game.
But I think from a route running perspective, I thought he could take a step in the league was against pure off-man coverage. Especially as a vertical player, working sideline routes, I think that was something without even looking at the reception perception data, as a rookie in 2020, you could see him make those plays against off-man coverage working corner routes, out routes, stuff like that. That was really like if you look at something where he shined as a route runner in the collegiate game.
Definitely not in all the traditional senses, and he was a very chaotic guy as a route runner in college. Maybe not the not most consistent separator and a true technician. Now, when we get to the NFL, we’ll talk about how that evolved.
That was the thing to me, that he looked like a guy who could make a lot of big plays against off-man coverage, and that was really exciting that he had those, obviously, after catch burners, the broken tackle ability, but he definitely showed you the ability to work as a vertical player as well.
Below is Matt’s charting of Brandon Aiyuk’s 2020 and 2021 seasons on Receptionperception.com:
For the full sit down with Matt, check out the video below and subscribe to receptionperception.com for more information on wide receivers.