Believe the hype: Brandon Aiyuk will soar as WR1 in San Francisco
Full Disclosure: a large portion of my brain lives and breathes 49ers football, and I wholeheartedly believe that Brandon Aiyuk, or #AirAiyuk as I like to call him, will most assuredly be a valuable fantasy commodity for the foreseeable future.
Aiyuk is like the Road Runner: quick on the ground, but with the right wind under his wings, he’ll soar right over that pesky Wile E. Coyote. If the past is any indication of what to expect in the future, the odds are pretty good that Brandon Aiyuk will hurdle over a defender during the 2021 NFL season. But the real question is, will he leapfrog Deebo Samuel to be the unquestioned WR1 for the 49ers?
The short answer, is hell yes.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Aiyuk going into his second year in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
With an 81-inch wingspan, it is hard not to compare him to Calvin Johnson, AKA Megatron. Johnson’s 82-inch span made him one the top WRs in fantasy football during his time with the Detroit Lions. His speed, athleticism, and ability to catch the ball high, low, and everywhere in-between was something to admire.
You know that old saying, “Size doesn’t matter?” Well, whoever said that clearly never watched Megatron play.
Johnson’s wingspan alone allowed for him to literally snatch balls out of the air while his defenders were left in awe below him.
Now, there can only truly be one Megatron, but Brandon Aiyuk is ready to play that role for Kyle Shanahan, who claims to have had Aiyuk as his WR1 of the 2020 draft class, whereas most were locked into CeeDee Lamb. There is no doubt that Kyle wants him to be the alpha and he will ultimately finish as the WR1 for the 49ers over Deebo Samuel.
Though Kyle Shanahn is known to spread the love between his receivers, running backs, and tight ends, Aiyuk has historically stepped up his game in his second season of play. Just peep his stats from Arizona State: in 2018, he had 33 receptions for 474 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2019.
Aiyuk’s wingspan ratio (9 inches longer than his height) reminds me a lot of an NBA player. Wingspan is an incredibly valuable trait simply because it gives an athlete the ability to play far beyond their physical size. So for a guy like Aiyuk, who stands 6’1, he can play like a wide receiver that is actually 6’3 or 6’4. That added length can give you the edge over a defender. This is terrifying for defenses to consider, especially because Aiyuk excels after the catch.
He literally is #AirAiyuk out on the gridiron and with a healthy quarterback at center, the second-year receiver will no doubt improve on his rookie season numbers. In 2020, he had 60 receptions for 748 yards and 5 touchdowns, with guys like Nick Mullens & CJ Beathard throwing to him. Imagine what he’ll put up this year if the 2021 offensive squad can stay on the field?
No disrespect to my boy Deebo Samuel, but Aiyuk will hurdle over him for that top receiver spot, especially after Samuel’s lack of play last season. While Deebo is a tremendous part of the team, he looks like he is better for the 49ers than he is for your fantasy rosters.
It’s no secret that Deebo is prone to injury. He suffered multiple hamstring injuries and even a broken leg in college. And last year, Samuel suffered a fracture in his foot that kept him off the field for the first three games of the season. He also suffered another hamstring injury in Week 7, missing another three games. That same hamstring acted up a few weeks after his return to play, and he missed the final three games of 2020.
Sports Injury Predictor says there’s an 82% Samuel will be injured again in the 2021 season. On the flip, SIP predicts a 0% chance of injury for Brandon Aiyuk, who does not have an extensive list of past wounds looming over him like his fellow receiver.
And with the 49ers sustaining the second-most injuries of literally any NFL team in the past 20 years last season, the odds of Aiyuk being utilized more than Samuel are definitely higher.
Sky high, even.