The San Francisco 49ers thought highly enough of Brandon Aiyuk to trade up to get him at 25th overall in April’s draft. Head coach Kyle Shanahan called the Arizona State product his favorite wide receiver in the draft.
Aiyuk is not especially big (6-foot, 205 pounds) or fast (4.5 40-yard dash time). But he averaged 17 yards per catch for the Sun Devils, including 18.3 yards a catch last season, and that after the catch skill is a great fit for the 49ers’ offense.
The 49ers’ lost Deebo Samuel to a foot injury in June. He is not likely to play Week 1, and he’s a fairly safe bet to be out at least a few weeks more than that. Then Jalen Hurd, who missed his rookie season, suffered a torn ACL on Monday. So San Francisco’s wide receiver depth has been thinned, even with the recent signings of Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson.
Shanahan praised Aiyuk for his work after the 49ers’ first camp practice.
“Since we’ve gotten here, going through these walk-throughs, he knows how to practice like a pro,”…”That’s why he’s further ahead than a lot of rookies would be at this time.”
Aiyuk, for at least as long as Samuel is out, is now clearly the 49ers’ No.1 wide receiver. Kendrick Bourne (touchdowns/red zone) and Trent Taylor (No. 1 slot receiver?) will have roles, but neither are a real threat to Aiyuk and the rest of the depth chart is not exciting.
The 49ers had the second-most rushing attempts in the NFL last year (498). So naturally, their pass play percentage as second-lowest (48.6 percent). That tilt toward the run, a successful formula all the way to Super Bowl last year, is not changing this year. If it puts a ceiling on Jimmy Garoppolo’s fantasy potential, it does the same to any 49ers’ pass catcher this side of George Kittle.