Sometimes you find exactly what you need without even looking for it.
Such was the case with the 49ers and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers drafted the Arizona State wide receiver with the No. 25 overall pick last Thursday, but he first caught their eye when they were scouting another player -- Aiyuk's former college teammate N'Keal Harry, who was drafted by the New England Patriots in the 2019 first round.
"We started noticing him when we were studying N'Keal Harry (leading to the 2019 draft)," 49ers general manager John Lynch said on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd." "N'Keal is a player that we had great interest in last year. He's now with the Patriots. As we were studying him, we kept saying, 'Who's this dude? This guy is pretty good.' He kept showing up in spurts."
Aiyuk is a YAC monster. A 6-foot receiver with an 81-inch wingspan and a catch radius the size of Saturn. Lynch has said the 49ers had Aiyuk atop their draft board along with Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb. They even debated taking Aiyuk at No. 13 overall, but opted instead to trade down one spot and draft South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
The 49ers made the right choice to go with their gut and prioritize drafting Kinlaw early, hoping Aiyuk would be there later in the first round.
Aiyuk played for Herm Edwards at Arizona State. Edwards likened Aiyuk's football to speed to Jerry Rice after the 49ers drafted him. Edwards also is close with Lynch and gave the 49ers GM some insight into the dynamic receiver.
"So we watched him throughout the year, and he's a guy that just the more you watch, the more you like," Lynch told Cowherd. "I think we were probably helped by [his 40-time]. I don't think he was healthy. He's since had that core-muscle surgery, but he ran a 4.5, and our eyes sure didn't see a 4.5. Our eyes saw a guy that never got caught. Sure enough, when I talked to Herm, Herm said, 'Don't believe that. He's a high 4.3 guy day long.'
"Ultimately, what we liked about him is Kyle (Shanahan) and his staff, I mean, that's one reason when you talk about our hit rate on these receivers, it hasn't been perfect, but they do a tremendous job. They've been in this system for a long time. And so, when you're trying to project with all these college offenses, you have to look at traits, and that's what we do."
Aiyuk is a talented receiver, but in a loaded class he slipped to 25 where the 49ers were more than willing to leap in front of the Green Bay Packers to add him.
Putting Aiyuk in an offense with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle should give coach Kyle Shanahan more than enough YAC-potential to scheme up.
The 49ers widened the gap between them and their rivals in the NFC West during the draft, and adding Aiyuk's all-world ability is a big reason why they should be considered the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV.