Fantasy football: PFF cites 49ers Brandon Aiyuk as breakout grab

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Pro Football Focus’ list of fantasy football breakout wide receivers for 2021 includes the 49ers’ own, Brandon Aiyuk, who could do big things in year two.

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about San Francisco 49ers second-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk entering 2021.

True, Minnesota Vikings first-round wide receiver Justin Jefferson grabbed all the hype and attention during his parallel rookie season a year ago, reaching 1,400 receiving yards and quickly cementing himself as a WR1 target for fantasy football owners everywhere.

But fantasy veterans know and understand that leagues are won or lost based on the selections made in the middle and late rounds, and overlooking those waiver-wire adds can be the difference between a chump and a champ.

Aiyuk certainly doesn’t fall into a waiver-wire category. He’ll certainly be rostered in the bulk of fantasy football leagues this year after threatening Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s franchise record for rookie receiving yards by posting up 748 of his own over just 12 games in 2020. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Aiyuk’s average draft position is 5.07 (Round 5, pick No. 7) in a 12-team, points-per-reception format.

Only 12 games played and with three different quarterbacks trying to get him the ball. One can see why fantasy owners should be intrigued by Aiyuk as a mid-round WR2 candidate entering 2021.

Fantasy football: Pro Football Focus is bullish on 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk

Second-year players are always intriguing to fantasy owners, and Aiyuk certainly falls into this category considering he performed well despite all the setbacks the Niners endured during his rookie season.

Pro Football Focus just put together a list of five breakout wide receivers owners should target, relegating each of them to the mid-tier status where at least one of them should be available.

Not surprisingly, Aiyuk was the first player they broke down:

"Aiyuk was the WR9 last season in fantasy expected points per game, and that was in his rookie season while playing much of the year with Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. Aiyuk will face more target competition in 2021 if George Kittle and Deebo Samuel can stay healthy, but those concerns are baked into his price. In short, you want any rookie receiver who was able to be as dominant as Aiyuk, no matter how much target competition he faced. …Rookie Trey Lance might force head coach Kyle Shanahan to shift further toward a run-centric game plan, but he also brings a big arm that aligns well with Aiyuk’s downfield route tree. One of the reasons that Aiyuk’s expected points were so high in 2020 is that he received lots of high-value targets on slants in the middle of the field and near the end zone, which should continue this season."

San Francisco is expected to start Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback this season, eventually transitioning to Lance.

But even though Garoppolo isn’t known for his downfield passing attempts, those slant plays over the middle is an area where both Jimmy G and Aiyuk thrived, so it’s fair to assume the two will have a connection early on this season.

Related Story: Assessing Deebo Samuel’s fantasy football value in 2021

True, targets might be much more distributed this season with both Kittle and Samuel (hopefully) enjoying a clean slate of health. Yet Aiyuk has already shown some potential that he, not Samuel, should emerge as the 49ers’ true No. 1 player at the position. And while that won’t be good enough to take over for Kittle as the Niners’ top receiving target, Aiyuk certainly can still benefit from Kittle taking away the bulk of defensive attention.

PFF also listed these other breakout wide receivers:

  • Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • K.J. Hamler, Denver Broncos
  • Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Jefferson kind of broke out in year one, but maybe PFF had other reasons to slot him in on this list. Theirs, not ours.

Either way, Jefferson is surely going to go much earlier than Aiyuk in fantasy football drafts. But Aiyuk should have a great deal of value as a solid mid-round pick.

Next. Fantasy football: Brandon Aiyuk, 4 other wide receivers who break out. dark