Brandon Aiyuk returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday night and made an instant impact in the 49ers' 34-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The 49ers' rookie receiver caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Mullens in the final minute of the first quarter and gave San Francisco an early lead. While he botched his celebration, Aiyuk earned his praise from Baltimore Ravens receiver Dez Bryant.
The former All-Pro compared Aiyuk to a young Julio Jones. Aiyuk's ex-teammate, Mohamed Sanu, who played with Jones on the Atlanta Falcons, agreed with the comparison.
That is a lofty comparison, to say the least. Jones, 31, is a two-time All-Pro and has made the Pro Bowl seven times. Jones has seven seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards and has led the NFL twice in the stat. Ever since the Falcons selected Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, he has been one of the best -- if not the best -- receivers in football.
Kyle Shanahan has to hope the same will be true of Aiyuk after trading back into the first round of the 2020 draft to get him. Shanahan was Jones' offensive coordinator in Atlanta the two years the receiver was an All-Pro. It's hard to live up to a Jones comparison, but Aiyuk is off to a strong start in his rookie year.
Aiyuk finished Monday night with five receptions for 95 yards and one TD. He now has 40 receptions for 541 yards and four touchdowns in nine games. The explosive receiver also has two rushing touchdowns. Jones had 54 receptions for 959 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in just 13 games, but he did have a young Matt Ryan throwing him passes as opposed to a hobbled Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens.
The 49ers couldn't be happier with Aiyuk in his rookie year, and the young receiver is opening eyes from players around the league.