49ers 2020 ‘Who Is?’ series: Brandon Aiyuk a star in the making?
By Peter Panacy
Why Brandon Aiyuk Could Struggle in Year One
Even some of the most-heralded collegiate wide receivers struggle early in their NFL careers. Longtime 49ers fans may recall Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s rookie season got off to a rookie start.
So it might be a bit unfair to peg Brandon Aiyuk as an immediate contributor right away. He has a long way to go before learning the unique and complex routes while also dealing with bigger, stronger and faster defensive backs at the NFL level.
Yet there are other reasons why Aiyuk might come nowhere close to reaching expected levels in 2020.
For starters, his collegiate production came in a sheer burst during his 2019 campaign:
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Granted, Aiyuk was a complementary piece to now-New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry in 2018. But it can be a risk to bank heavily on a player with just one year of top-notch production.
On top of that, Aiyuk isn’t known for being a tough, physical receiver. All too often, he dealt with issues handling press coverage at the line of scrimmage, which could frequently bump him off his routes and slow his acceleration. That won’t get any easier at the pro level.
Plus, the lack of size could hinder him in contested situations, too, where 50-50 balls won’t be his strength.
The Niners don’t have too many “go up and get it” receiving options on their roster, and it would have been a major bonus if Aiyuk could fill this niche role.
It could be very difficult for him to do so.