However, amid their preparations for the week, the NFL released this season’s Pro Bowl rosters, where nine different 49ers made the list, which was a league-high.
While several players got their deserved praises, one standout who didn’t see his name called was wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who has been considered one of the bigger Pro Bowl snubs among national media this season.
Aiyuk, who has 72 catches for 1,137 yards and seven touchdowns in 2023, was not one of the four receivers selected, dropping behind Dallas’s Ceedee Lamb, Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown, Los Angeles’s Puka Nacua, and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans.
Did Aiyuk deserve the nod over one of the chosen receivers?
Here are the stat lines for all four chosen receivers this season and Aiyuk.
CeeDee Lamb: 122 catches, 168 targets, 1,651 yards, and ten touchdowns.
A.J. Brown: 105 catches, 157 targets, 1,447 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Puka Nacua: 101 catches, 154 targets, 1,445 yards, and five touchdowns.
Mike Evans: 76 catches, 128 targets, 1,233 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
Brandon Aiyuk: 72 catches, 101 targets, 1,317 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Lamb and Brown are both top-three receivers statistically this season, having the volume and production to back up their ranking in the Pro Bowl voting.
Nacua and Evans both possess strong arguments as well, as the former has experienced an unprecedented rookie season. At the same time, the latter continues to be a deep threat and a touchdown machine.
However, when comparing Brandon Aiyuk’s numbers to the rest of the field, there’s a clear difference: targets.
Aiyuk has seen the ball less than his counterparts, due to the 49ers’ being up heavily in the fourth quarter, as well as their number of playmakers and balanced approach offensively.
Additionally, Aiyuk has missed a game this season, lowering his potential chances. With all that involved, the 49ers’ wideout has still managed to be in the top six for receiving yards, operating with incredible efficiency that has him near, if not atop the NFL.
Not only is Aiyuk making the most of his targets by averaging a league-high 18.3 yards per catch, but the receiver has done so while navigating past drops and issues plaguing other receivers.
His 28 explosive plays (20+ yard receiving plays) rank third in the NFL behind Lamb and Miami’s Tyreek Hill.
While his raw numbers may not be on par with the rest of the Pro Bowl’s selections, Aiyuk’s efficiency at the rate he’s performed this season deserved a Pro Bowl nod.
Did his teammates believe Aiyuk was deserving of a Pro Bowl nod?
It seemed like they weren’t too happy with the decision, with cornerback Charvarius Ward sharing some bold comments regarding the field.
“I would have put him on over one of those guys. I’m not gonna say which one,” Ward said this week via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows.
To make matters worse, the wideout is in an extension-eligible year, where details like Pro Bowl selections could be sticking points in negotiations.
Regardless, Aiyuk was named a Pro Bowl alternate and will anyways hope not to play in the game altogether as the 49ers chase their first Super Bowl ring in over two decades.