The 49ers’ selection of Brandon Aiyuk in the NFL Draft has fantasy football owners looking at a late-round steal.
The 2020 NFL Draft class is going to create a ton of interest within fantasy football circles this season, and there won’t be any shortage of attention given to the San Francisco 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
While Shanahan’s system is going to be a bona fide stat-getter for owners of tight end George Kittle, along with those willing to bank on yet another breakout season for running back Raheem Mostert, much of the money will ultimately be made on grabbing some late-round wide receiver candidates.
The leading candidate to impress from the Niners’ ranks is the second-year pro, Deebo Samuel, whose 57 receptions, 802 receiving yards, 159 rush yards and six combined touchdowns amounted to 132.1 non-PPR (points per reception) fantasy football points last year. Currently, in a 12-team PPR format, Samuel has an average draft position (ADP) of 4.05 (fifth pick in Round 4), according to Fantasy Football Calculator.
But as any fantasy owner can argue, winning a league championship is far more about getting value and production in the later rounds.
Enter the 49ers’ second first-round NFL Draft pick from 2020, Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Aiyuk’s senior production, which produced 1,192 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, was noteworthy as the 6-foot-0, 206-pound wideout looks to command attention right out of the gate. And there’s enough reason to suspect he’ll have his chances to contribute early, too, particularly with other defenses focused on Kittle and more so now on Samuel.
Shanahan equated Aiyuk to another top receiver in this year’s draft, now-Dallas Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb, who was frequently ranked towards the very top of this year’s class. Yet Shanahan ultimately chose Aiyuk, electing to use the 49ers’ top pick in the draft on South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
San Francisco’s offense is akin to creating mismatches and allowing pass catchers to engineer yards after the reception. Kittle is a perfect example of this, of course, and it’s one of the traits Aiyuk displayed, too.
As such, put him on the back-end sleeper portion of your fantasy football watch list.
When should fantasy football owners target the 49ers rookie?
Rookie wide receivers are always risky in fantasy. Even the top-name players can take a while to get going. Even Samuel, despite his impressive first-year campaign, failed to impress on a consistent basis over the first half of the season.
Now, Samuel is owned in over 93 percent of ESPN leagues.
Aiyuk, meanwhile, is owned in just over 10 percent of the same leagues. He’ll likely be an afterthought among first-year players, including Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Fantasy Football Calculator doesn’t even register him as a fantasy draft-worthy player.
And that’s great news for owners everywhere looking for a sleeper.
ESPN predicts Aiyuk will post up 38 receptions for 511 yards and four touchdowns, amounting to 112.29 fantasy points. That alone is worthy of a stash spot on rosters and a would-be fill-in for another top receiver on a bye week or dealing with an injury. Favorable matchups also prompt the idea of FLEX usage, too.
Early on, it might be wise to sit on Aiyuk for a few weeks to see what kind of usage he’s getting on the 49ers offense. A minimum of three to five targets per day would help justify him creeping into consideration for regular insertion into your starting lineup.
But with a similar trajectory to Samuel’s 2019 campaign, you might even possibly wind up with a solid WR2 option at a bargain-basement fantasy draft price.
That’s how you win fantasy football championships right there.