49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (the man-coverage specialist)
For the early portions of 2021, Kyle Shanahan often had to use Brandon Aiyuk in a field-stretching role, which didn’t exactly help the 2020 draft pick’s stat line with a weak-armed Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
It’s a thankless job regardless, running deep routes to draw a defender down the field all the while knowing targets aren’t likely coming your way.
That aspect of the offense should change a bit with Trey Lance and his stronger arm under center, but with the 49ers drafting Danny Gray and/or looking at Ray-Ray McCloud to serve as a speed threat, Aiyuk should be freed up to be more of a focal point of the offense.
Particularly against man coverage, where Aiyuk thrives.
Aiyuk, who nevertheless had 826 receiving yards despite his slow start last season, is one of those players poised to benefit a lot with Lance under center, and it’s certainly reasonable to assume the former Arizona State wideout finally surpasses that 1,000-yard receiving plateau in 2022.
Particularly if defenses are locked in on the Niners’ No. 1 offensive weapon, Deebo Samuel.