49ers

49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk's reliable hands are shown with this stat

49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk's reliable hands are shown with this stat

High expectations were placed on Brandon Aiyuk immediately after the 49ers traded up and selected the former Arizona State receiver with the No. 25 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Those hopes among The Faithful only have grown with Deebo Samuel and Richie James going down with injuries this offseason. 

Samuel and James should be ready to go for the season if everything goes right in their recovery. It's never that easy, though. 

There of course are concerns with any rookie's learning curve coming into the NFL. Those only have been heightened with this odd offseason. And Kyle Shanahan notoriously has one of the most complex playbooks in football. But there's good news when it comes to Aiyuk. 

Aiyuk has some of the surest hands in the entire rookie draft class. His 5.5 percent drop rate was the third-best among six first-round receivers. Only Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb, both drafted ahead of Aiyuk, performed better in the category. 

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As a senior, Aiyuk hauled in 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games. He did this all while having a freshman quarterback, Jayden Daniels, throwing him passes last year. And he has shown off his sure hands this offseason, too. 

Aiyuk made a great first impression on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The rookie joined his QB and others in workouts at San Jose State last month, and he stood out to Garoppolo for more than his talent. 

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“You can tell when you’re calling a play and you look into a guy’s eye and know if he’s taking it in or if it’s like, ‘What the hell is this guy saying?' ” Garoppolo told The Athletic's Matt Barrows. “And he was engaged, he was locked in. And he was a fun guy to be around, too.”

The 49ers are scheduled to start training camp July 25, and all eyes will be on Aiyuk. He has a great chance to carve out an important role with Samuel shelved, and he only will further solidify that by snagging every ball Garoppolo throws his way.

How Charlie Woerner won George Kittle over early in 49ers tenure

How Charlie Woerner won George Kittle over early in 49ers tenure

George Kittle is one of the top passing weapons in the NFL, But while the 49ers star tight end excels at running through defenders, there's nothing he loves more than asserting his will in the run game.

Kittle is one of the best blocking tight ends in football, and the whole world saw his enthusiasm for blocking when the 49ers asserted their will over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round by running the ball on eight straight plays, capped off by 2-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman. Kittle was mic'd up in the win and was caught imploring his team to "run it again" as they pushed the Vikings down the field during the 27-10 win.

The 49ers added another tight end to their stable this offseason by drafting Georgia product Charlie Woerner in the sixth round. While it can be hard for rookies to win over veterans, Woerner easily got on Kittle's good side during a player's only workout this offseason.

"I'm excited. Charlie's a good dude," Kittle said on the "Pardon My Take" podcast. "We were actually running routes together, and he was like, 'Hey, this passing stuff is kind of boring. When are we going to start talking about the run game?'

"And I was like, 'You're my guy. I needed that out of you.'"

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Woerner wasn't utilized a lot in the passing game at Georgia. He caught just nine passes for 78 yards and one touchdown in seven games during his senior season. The Bulldog believes he can learn a lot from Kittle, who has gone from unknown fifth-round draft pick to star in no time at all.

“I’m super pumped to be in the tight ends room with him,” Woerner said after being drafted. “As a guy who blocks a lot at Georgia I just love watching him play, just the way and style he played at the 49ers this year and how aggressive he is in the blocking game. I love to emulate him, try to be like him.”

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As a young tight end coming into the NFL, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better role model than Kittle.

Woerner already has endeared himself to his new teammate, now he gets to learn from one of the best players in the NFL every day. Not a bad start to an NFL career.

Why Peter King bets Seahawks sign Antonio Brown despite suspension

Why Peter King bets Seahawks sign Antonio Brown despite suspension

If NBC Sports' Peter King had to bet on Antonio Brown's next home, one team is above the rest: The Seattle Seahawks.

"I think if I had to put $5 down on Antonio Brown’s team for this year after his eight-game ban is served, I’d put it on Seattle," King wrote in his latest Football Morning in America column. "Russell Wilson is a fan and wants it to happen, Pete Carroll isn’t afraid of risky guys, and John Schneider (Percy Harvin, Josh Gordon) is okay with taking shots on game-breakers with baggage."

There's baggage, and then there's Antonio Brown. We all saw what happened with the Raiders last year. There's no need to go down that rabbit hole again. 

Even after the Raiders released Brown, his behavior became that much more bizarre and dangerous. His talent is that of an all-time great, but the risk is beyond high, to say the least.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Brown also was suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the 2020 season on Friday. The free-agent receiver was suspended for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy. Any team is free to sign him after eight games. 

This also comes less than two weeks after Brown said he's retired from football on Twitter. 

It does, however, make sense why King would peg him a possible future Seahawk. After watching the 49ers win the NFC West and make it all the way to Super Bowl LIV, Seattle reportedly had "internal discussions" about signing Brown. When it comes to his talent, Brown is a game-changer and Wilson reportedly expressed he "would love" to play with AB.

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On paper, any QB would love to throw passes to Brown. From 2013 through 2018, he averaged 114 receptions, 1,524 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. That would be a big boost for Russell and the Seahawks, and a detriment to 49ers defensive backs. 

But Brown remains out of the league as a free agent who might be too much of a risk despite his Hall of Fame talent.