The 49ers zigged when most expected them to zag late in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night, and came away with a new weapon for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when they selected former Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick.
Aiyuk, who turned 22 years old last month, was a stud at the NFL Scouting Combine, ranking in the 90th percentile in the broad jump, vertical jump and 10-yard split, and he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Though on the smaller side at 6 feet tall, Aiyuk makes up for it with his immense 81-inch wingspan, which is the largest for any player at his height in the history of the combine. He displays excellent body control, and has been known to go up and get it, but he'll need to improve his catching form, as he allows too many balls to get into his body.
A native of Reno, Nev., Aiyuk attended Sierra College in Rocklin before moving on to Arizona State, where he caught 98 passes for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns over two seasons. Electric with the ball in his hands, he also averaged 27.1 yards per kickoff return, and had a punt return for a touchdown during his senior year. He has excellent body control, and would appear to be a logical replacement for Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency.
While Aiyuk is a great receiver prospect, San Francisco paid a pretty penny to acquire him. To move up to the 25th pick, the 49ers sent the No. 31, No. 117 and No. 176 overall selections to the Minnesota Vikings. That 117th pick? San Francisco acquired it earlier in the night when dropping back from 13 to 14 and selecting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. For a team that entered the draft without any selections in the second through fourth rounds, that was a heavy bet.
Still, at this point, you have to continue to give coach Kyle Shanahan the benefit of the doubt. He's one of the premiere play-callers in all of football, and if he believes Aiyuk is the missing link for the 49ers' offense, there's a good chance he is. After all, things seemed to work out pretty well with Deebo Samuel last year.
Aiyuk fits what the 49ers want to do, and fills a position of extreme need. That said, they passed on the opportunity to acquire a few superior wideouts, and combined with the price to trade up to 25, they get slightly dinged in the grade of this pick.
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