49ers fans likely have by this point seen a thing or two about No. 25 overall pick Brandon Aiyuk, as the wideout became the second member of San Francisco’s 2020 draft class on Thursday night.
The speedster spent the past two seasons at Arizona State, lighting up PAC-12 defenses with an unmatched ability to run after the catch.
But let’s go a little deeper, with five things you might not know about one of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s new weapons.
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Aiyuk is a Reno, Nev. native but played junior college football at Sierra College in Rocklin, just under 140 miles from Levi’s Stadium. An unheralded prospect coming out of Robert McQueen High School, Aiyuk had to prove himself at the junior college level before attending ASU. His athleticism however, always has jumped off the screen.
As he shared on social media following his selection Thursday night, he’s been wearing 49ers gear for a long time.
— Brandon Aiyuk (@THE2ERA) April 24, 2020
Aiyuk played a part in several momentous upsets during his days in Tempe, but he became a household name in the PAC-12 on Nov. 23, 2019. With his team facing a third-and-16 deep in Sun Devil territory, Aiyuk torched the Oregon Ducks’ secondary and went untouched for an 81-yard touchdown, sealing an upset win at home against the then-No. 6 Ducks.
Oregon and 2020 No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert were a few wins away from a potential berth in the College Football Playoff, but Aiyuk had other ideas.
Being from Arizona, I know a thing or two about the Sun Devils. Last season Aiyuk was their go-to guy. When they needed a big play in the passing game, they would look to Aiyuk.— 21Reasons (@Cofy21) April 24, 2020
In this clip, Oregon had all of the momentum at this point of the game. Then this 3rd & 16 happened pic.twitter.com/IovnSJrV3N
Nearly Stolen by Saban
Aiyuk wasn’t a highly touted prospect in junior college football despite his all-conference accolades in California. Holding offers from only a few Power 5 schools -- most of which wanted him to switch over to the defensive side of the ball -- Aiyuk signed with ASU in 2018. But just hours later, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide came calling, having had another recruit fall through at the last second.
He stayed true to his word and took his talents to Tempe, but could you imagine a receiving corps with Aiyuk and 2020 first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy in Tuscaloosa? That’s a scary thought.
Herm Edwards, Aiyuk’s coach at ASU and a longtime NFL coach and analyst, told 94 WIP in Philadelphia that Aiyuk’s explosiveness reminds him of another wide receiver who made his name in the PAC-12. “He reminds me a little bit of DeSean (Jackson). He’s very explosive that way. He’s a good return guy. (Junior college) guy coming out, so he’s only played two years.”
Former ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens has another, more unique comparison for Aiyuk. “To me he runs the ball like Walter Payton used to,” Likens said (h/t Sports360AZ). “He wants to finish the run. He’s looking to inflict some physical pain on another human being before he hits the ground and that’s what I love about him.”
If you haven’t heard, Aiyuk has one of the more unique wingspans from this year’s draft class. Aiyuk stands at just under six feet tall, yet has a wingspan of 6-foot-9. That puts him on par with … Warriors star Klay Thompson, who also measures out with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. Only five other receivers at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine had at least an 80-inch wingspan like Aiyuk, and none of them were shorter than 6-foot-3.
His lengthy arms should only make it easier for Jimmy G to get the ball to Aiyuk, who was as dangerous as anyone in college football a season ago with the ball in his hands.