Brandon Aiyuk finally turned into 49ers’ best wide receiver in 2022

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

While Deebo Samuel is a household name, fellow 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk actually put together the more impressive 2022 campaign.

At least statistically speaking.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk should have been in a position to emerge as his team’s leading wideout over the course of 2022. After all, his position mate, Deebo Samuel, had earned all the recognition after a 2021 All-Pro campaign that would, in turn, draw all kinds of attention from opposing defenses.

As such, it wasn’t a bad idea to think Aiyuk would be the primary beneficiary.

So much for thinking about whether or not Aiyuk would slump as he did early in 2021, his second season. If anything, wondering whether or not he’d hit the 1,000-yard mark became the primary focus.

He did, and by recording those 1,015 receiving yards, he was technically the Niners’ top wide receiver in 2022 after setting that career-high.

Is Brandon Aiyuk, not Deebo Samuel, now the 49ers’ best wide receiver?

From a pound-for-pound perspective, Samuel is much more potent and versatile than Aiyuk. While Samuel’s dual-threat usage was on far less a display in 2022 than it was the season prior, his 232 rush yards and three touchdowns were a nice complement to the 632 yards receiving he had over 13 games played.

Right there, though, is a factor that’s working in Aiyuk’s favor: availability.

Aiyuk appeared in all 17 games San Francisco played during the regular season, whereas Samuel was limited to only 13 because of injuries.

Even though Samuel might have put considerably more numbers on his stat sheet if he had been healthy for those four additional games, Aiyuk didn’t have to worry about missing time with an injury.

That counts for something.

Related Story: Why is 49ers’ duo of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk so underrated?

Will 49ers extend Brandon Aiyuk like they did to Deebo Samuel?

Samuel got his payday last offseason, and the 49ers are committing big money to him through the 2025 season.

Aiyuk, meanwhile, enters year four of his rookie deal and would be eligible for a fifth-year option, given he’s a former first-round NFL Draft pick. It would seem silly for the Niners not to pick up that option, but it’s also plausible they look to extend him beforehand.

San Francisco has only $8-plus million in cap space heading into the 2023 offseason but is projected to have $52 million in 2024, according to Over the Cap.

However, the 49ers will have a number of hefty contracts to keep in tow, and that number will shrink awfully quickly. And there might not be enough cash to retain both Samuel and Aiyuk on lucrative deals at the same time.

At least statistically, Aiyuk still managed to outplay the more-expensive Samuel last season, but one can fairly wonder if the two will balance each other out in 2023.

Top 6 wide receiver duos in 49ers history. dark. Next