49ers roster: 5 players who must step up with Deebo Samuel out

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 2: 49ers Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk

Just like Trent Sherfield being the talk of the wide receiver corps earlier this season, second-year pro Brandon Aiyuk was equally the talk, only for the wrong reasons.

Aiyuk, whose 2020 rookie campaign was so impressive, fell into Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse early in 2021, only to see a recent resurgence and uptick in production over the last few weeks. He had six receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9, seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars two weeks later, and then finished off Week 12 with a quiet-but-important three-catch, 91-yard performance versus Minnesota.

Suddenly, Aiyuk has become the Niners’ leading receiver as of late while Deebo Samuel has been the biggest weapon.

Aiyuk, as was shown in 2020, can do a lot of the things on the ground Samuel can. And while Aiyuk might not have the physicality to bull through defenders as a runner, his ability to fight through man coverage and haul in contested passes makes for a prime beneficiary of more attention with Samuel out of the lineup.

And it wouldn’t be a shocker to see Kyle Shanahan deploy Aiyuk in some rushing formations either.

Regardless, Aiyuk needs to continue his recent surge to help San Francisco overcome Samuel’s absence.