Brandon Aiyuk has all the makings to be a top-flight wide receiver in the NFL. The eye test says as much, despite opportunities not being anywhere near what they are for the rest of the NFL’s elite.
Aiyuk is one of the best separators in the NFL and has impressive body control at the catch point to boot, charted as “open” or “wide open” on 55.8% of receiving snaps in 2022, a top-five mark among wide receivers. Deebo Samuel already received his top-of-market extension, as did tight end George Kittle, but San Francisco may have no choice but to pay all three starting in 2024.
Separation is Aiyuk’s specialty, so seeing him rated so highly helps solidify any argument for those not on the Aiyuk train.
Alex Caruso, who does fantasy football for ESPN, charted every WR1 since 2000 to see what similarities and traits each wideout shared. He specifically sought after their height, weight, draft capital, and how long they played in the NFL.
According to Caruso, 44 percent of the top 12 wide receivers are drafted in the first round. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as higher draft picks are afforded more opportunities and a longer leash if they don’t produce right away.
The majority of wide receivers reach their peak during Year 4-6, per Caruso:
28% of Top 12 WRs are in the first 3 years of their career
37% of Top 12 WRs are in Years 4-6 of their career
25% of Top 12 WRs are in Years 7-9 of their career
Aiyuk was in his third year last season. Aiyuk had the 19th-most receptions and 21st in ‘22. But, as we know, most other teams don’t have as many mouths to feed as the Niners do in their offense.
Height and weight may catch the common fan off-guard. When you think of the top wide receivers, or any position, outliers will be the first thing that comes to mind. So, in the case of receivers, weight matters more than height, but being between 6’ and 6’2” is the sweet spot for success, according to Caruso.
Height of a Top 12 WR:— Alex Caruso (@AlexCaruso) July 16, 2023
5% of Top 12 WRs are 5'9 or shorter
16% of Top 12 WRs are 5'10 or 5'11
47% of Top 12 WRs are 6'0 to 6'2
32% of Top 12 WRs are 6'3 or taller
This means WRs between 6'0 and 6'2 make up almost half of the Top 12 WRs
Weight of a Top 12 WR:— Alex Caruso (@AlexCaruso) July 16, 2023
16% of Top 12 WRs are 189 lbs or less
17% of Top 12 WRs are 190-199 lbs
19% of Top 12 WRs are 200-209 lbs
48% of Top 12 WRs are 210+ lbs
This would mean the heavier the WR, the more likely they finish in the Top 12
Aiyuk stands 6’ tall and weighed in at 200 pounds on the dot. His teammate, Deebo Samuel, is the same height, but weighs 216 pounds. So, maybe the 49ers are aware of this. Deebo checks every box from above, while Aiyuk fell short of the weight criteria.
Determining what makes a “top 12 WR” is subjective. Receptions and yards could be based on volume. Deebo already had his peak year in 2021. Now, it’s Aiyuk’s turn in 2023.