Brandon Aiyuk has big shoes to fill in the Bay Area.
The 49ers selected the Arizona State wide receiver with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, trading up from No. 31 to secure the YAC king before the Packers could bring him to Green Bay. Coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have high hopes for Aiyuk. They had him ranked atop a loaded wide receiver class along with Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, and even debated taking him at No. 13 overall.
In Aiyuk, the 49ers hope to get a versatile receiver who can step in immediately and help make up for the loss of Emmanuel Sanders, who joined the New Orleans Saints in free agency.
"It didn't matter where you put him and it didn't matter what the play was, and that's what we got a little bit with Emmanuel when we traded for him, and that's what I think we're getting with Brandon," Shanahan said, via ESPN's Nick Wagoner.
"This guy wants to be great. I want someone like that. And I think he has the tools to be great. I think he has the mindset to be great, and I promise you schematically we're going to give him every chance to do that."
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Aiyuk will join Deebo Samuel and George Kittle to give Shanahan three pass-catchers who excel at making people miss with the ball in their hands.
Samuel had a good rookie season and now is primed for a big sophomore campaign with Aiyuk in the fold. The South Carolina product hauled in 57 catches for 802 yards and three touchdowns and the sky is the limit for him in Shanahan's offense.
Aiyuk has an 81-inch wingspan and is a lot faster than the 4.5 40-yard-dash time he clocked at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was labored by a core muscle injury, but the 49ers have seen the tape and know his game speed can rival almost anyone in football. That's why they traded up to get him, risking their future trade for Trent Williams in the process. They believe Aiyuk's ability to stretch the field vertically and make people miss with the ball in his hands will make what was one of the NFL's best offenses even more potent.
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Sanders played a key role in the 49ers' run to Super Bowl LIV. He helped mentor a young receiving corps, blocked in the run game and became a favored target of Jimmy Garoppolo.
Those are big shoes for Aiyuk to fill, but Shanahan believes he's up to the challenge.