The 49ers have received solid production from Brandon Aiyuk the last two seasons, but 2022 might wind up being his biggest jump to date.
Ah, yes. It’s time for Niner Noise to dish out our annual “Who is?” series on players. We might not be calling it that anymore, but the breakdown of each player on the San Francisco 49ers’ 90-man offseason roster will continue nonetheless.
And since we do it in alphabetical order (mostly), we’ll kick off the 2022 installment by looking at third-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
The Niners’ first-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft wasn’t quite on the level of Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson in year one, but Aiyuk was solid nonetheless, even threatening Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s franchise record for a rookie, set back in 1985, by accumulating 748 yards on 60 receptions for five touchdowns over 11 games played.
Statistically, Aiyuk’s sophomore campaign was better, but it’s important to note Aiyuk played in 16 games instead of 11.
So his yardage totals per game took a noticeable dip when compared to 2020:
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
There are a few reasons for this. For starters, in 2020, fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel missed nine games with various injuries, meaning Aiyuk almost became the de facto No. 1 wideout on the depth chart by default.
Additionally, as fans may remember, the first half of 2021 looked as if Aiyuk was squarely in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse.
Shanahan wholly denied this, of course, but it didn’t change the narrative for much of the first half of last season. And it also didn’t help when Samuel kickstarted his torrid pace en route to 1,770 all-purpose yards in 2021, undeniably taking away touches that could have gone Aiyuk’s way.
Samuel’s own team drama aside, could 2022 finally be the year in which Aiyuk turns into a 1,000-yard receiver and essentially breaks out as a legitimate weapon San Francisco has long coveted to pair with Samuel and tight end George Kittle?
Let’s take a deeper look.