Brandon Aiyuk has a chip on his shoulder (and that's great for 49ers)

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Aiyuk isn't even the most well-known wide receiver on the 49ers, yet he's gunning to change that in a big way in 2023.

Without looking, which player do you think led the San Francisco 49ers in receiving yards in 2022?

Since this is an article about fourth-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, you're probably going to say it was him (and you'd be right). But, admit it. Your first inkling was probably to name one of the two superstars like tight end George Kittle or fellow wideout Deebo Samuel.

Those two players are Pro Bowlers, but it was actually Aiyuk who led the team with 78 receptions and 1,015 yards over the course of the year, earning his first 1,000-yard campaign after the Niners used a first-round pick on him back in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Despite the accolade, Aiyuk publicly shared some frustration via his Twitter account after the 2022 campaign was closed and done:

San Francisco already picked up Aiyuk's fully guaranteed fifth-year option that'll keep him around through 2024, but Aiyuk also knows the 49ers have a history of negotiating contracts with players on rookie contracts one year prior to those deals expiring.

From that vantage point, Aiyuk is sort of hitting a contract year. And he knows it.

Brandon Aiyuk feels he's undervalued, will prove doubters wrong in 2023

Speaking to reporters from organized team activities, via NBC Sports Bay Area's Jennifer Lee Chan, Aiyuk shared a little of why he's looking forward to the upcoming 2023 season.

“I’m about to take off,” Aiyuk’s said. “That’s it. Nothing is guaranteed but just getting a better understanding for my life as a person, and as a football player, and putting those two together, and then looking to get better. I feel like having another offseason being on top, being able to get out here another spring, working on my craft, I see it.”

Read more: Is Brandon Aiyuk actually the 49ers' best wide receiver?

Aiyuk has played within Samuel's shadow ever since his rookie season and even despite the latter's occasional run-ins with injuries. Aiyuk also saw Samuel collect on a big payday after an All-Pro campaign in 2021, and it's not hard to factor that into how the former feels about his own value entering 2023.

“For sure,” Aiyuk responded when prompted about being underrated. “That’s been my whole life, that’s just how it’s been. But I feel like it’s supposed to be that way. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps me motivated and keeps me angry.” 

Samuel and Aiyuk headline one of the more underrated wide receiver duos in the NFL right now, yet there's little doubting how this tandem can be potent for an already-potent Niners offense.

Even if the quarterback situation isn't settled.

However, a friendly competition between Aiyuk and Samuel this year would be extremely beneficial, and it might be one of the vital X-factors needed to get San Francisco back not only to the Super Bowl but potentially on the podium accepting the Lombardi Trophy.

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