No. 1: 49ers Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk
It pains to write this, but second-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk may be the captain of this year’s Kyle Shanahan doghouse.
It was easy to believe the coachspeak Shanahan stated earlier that indicated Aiyuk’s lack of involvement in the game plan was due to his offseason hamstring injury, but every game that goes by makes this less and less believable.
Aiyuk has been an utter disappointment this year, and it’s more than just a little disbelieving.
Sure, the 2020 Niners receiving corps, along with star tight end George Kittle, dealt with plenty of injuries, which many predicted would be a reason for success, but you can’t ignore the fact Aiyuk was still able to produce a stat line of 60 catches for 748 yards and five touchdowns in only 12 games as a rookie.
Having said this, Aiyuk looks like a totally different player this year for San Francisco and is the clear second (and maybe even third) fiddle to fellow receiver Deebo Samuel, who is currently No. 2 in receiving yards in the entire NFL, by the way.
Shanahan is clearly disgruntled with Aiyuk, as he and general manager John Lynch have expressed their issues with Aiyuk’s contributions this year, citing his lack of concentration and ability to take the next step in his development as one of the reasons for his shortcoming this season.
So far through five games, Aiyuk has produced a mere 90 yards receiving on eight catches and one touchdown.
That is no good for a player selected at the end of the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Luckily, Aiyuk has flashed enough talent to merit being given another chance at proving he is the player fans saw last year, but this isn’t the ideal trajectory for a second-year receiver. We all know Dante Pettis flashed in a similar fashion his rookie season, yet even he wasn’t spared the doghouse treatment a year later and eventually found himself off the team in 2020.
Let’s hope Aiyuk doesn’t see a similar fate, but it’s kind of hard to see any other outcome at this point, given the lack of production we’ve seen from the young wideout. Aiyuk has to get out of Shanahan’s doghouse and prove to fans, and more importantly the team, he is someone that can be relied on for years to come.