Brandon Aiyuk has the attention of the greatest 49ers receiver of all time. The 2020 first-round pick was looked at as a perfect fit within Kyle Shanahan's offense and that was proven to be correct even during what was a tumultuous 2020 campaign in San Francisco. Aiyuk was able to flash his potential even when his quarterbacks mostly consisted of Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard due to Jimmy Garoppolo's ankle injuries. That ability to play at a high level in spite of subpar QB play has many in the Bay Area -- including Hall of Famer Jerry Rice -- excited about what's to come as he heads into Year 2.
The NFL's all-time leading receiver believes Aiyuk has only scratched his "explosive" potential and should be able to use his speed to help the 49ers' downfield attack in 2021.
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"I think he's going to come in and, you know, with a year under his belt he is going to be a better football player," Rice told NBC Sports Bay Area. "His commitment, his route-running; he is very explosive downfield, he can catch the ball underneath, he can do it all."
High praise from the best who has ever done it.
In 12 games played last year, Aiyuk snared 60 balls for 748 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns as well. One critique that you could place on Aiyuk from his rookie campaign was his 62.5% catch rate, but it appears like he's been working on his hands this offseason if his recent viral video is any indication.
The Arizona State product is expected to start alongside Deebo Samuel in a 49ers offense that should be much improved from what was put together a season ago. Not only is Garoppolo back healthy, but the club also spent its first-round pick on quarterback Trey Lance, who is set to be the long-term option at the position. With that in mind, a top-tier talent is waiting in the wings for this pass-catching group even in the event that Garoppolo goes down once again.