49ers training camp: Brandon Aiyuk living up to the hype

Brandon Aiyuk #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images) /

49ers rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had some concerns entering training camp, but the early results have been more than just promising.

The San Francisco 49ers are just two-plus days into their on-field portion of training camp in 2020, and fewer positions have garnered more attention and concern than their wide receiver corps.

This, particularly after losing second-year wideout Deebo Samuel to an offseason foot injury, which could seriously hinder this unit’s ability to make an impact early.

While those concerns still exist, rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is certainly doing his part to ensure head coach Kyle Shanahan’s wideouts aren’t as big a concern as initially thought. Aiyuk, the second of two San Francisco first-round picks from this year’s NFL Draft, has already emerged as one of training camp’s top standouts early on.

The San Jose Mercury News‘ Cam Inman described one particular play from Sunday on which Aiyuk flashed some touchdown ability and chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo:

"Brandon Aiyuk looked so smooth, so comfortable, so much like a play-making wide receiver worthy of a first-round draft pick.Aiyuk glided down the left sideline, got a step past cornerback Jason Verrett, and didn’t break stride making an over-the-shoulder catch on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo."

Taking a look at some of Aiyuk’s college tape from Arizona State, it’s not hard to see why the rookie wideout could potentially offer to Shanahan’s offense:

True, Aiyuk’s touchdown grab from Garoppolo was just one play, and Aiyuk has yet to flash this kind of production on a regular basis with the pads on.

But it’s encouraging. Just ask Shanahan, who told reporters the following:

"He’s not a guy you’ve had to teach how to act or teach how important it is to learn this stuff. You can tell he understood that before he got here. And since we’ve been around him, you can tell he’s been working, and that’s why he’s further ahead, I think, than a lot of rookies would be at this time."

One of the worst things a high-profile rookie could do early in training camp is not make any headlines.

So far, Aiyuk has checked off that box and for the right reasons.

Alleviating 49ers’ concerns at wide receiver

Again, it’s early. And Aiyuk hasn’t faced off against a variety of schemes and other established veterans who have had the chance to study his tendencies.

But with San Francisco still struggling to identify its wide receiver depth chart, Aiyuk’s early emergence helps alleviate some notable question marks. Samuel’s absence, at least in the first few weeks of camp, will open up more chances for Aiyuk and his fellow receiving teammates to see more reps. Yet the starting crop of receivers is still completely up for grabs, especially for as long as Samuel is out.

The Niners could field Aiyuk as a starter, especially if Shanahan calls up plays specifically for the rookie instead of relying on him to completely master one of the most complex systems in the NFL.

Should this be the case, it’s likely San Francisco fields fourth-year wideout Kendrick Bourne as a starter opposite Aiyuk, possibly working in depth receivers like Trent Taylor, Jauan Jennings, Dante Pettis and/or Tavon Austin, depending on who makes the 53-man cut after training camp.

But finding one of those go-to options is going to be vital for Shanahan, Garoppolo and the 49ers pass game.

Next. 4 players who must perform well during 49ers training camp. dark

There’s a lot left to be determined here, yes. Fortunately, the early results are looking good for Aiyuk.