Herm Edwards and John Lynch know each other well and the 49ers general manager trusts the Arizona State head coach.

Edwards also knows new 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk well, having coached him during the past two seasons at Arizona State. Aiyuk -- who the 49ers selected at No. 25 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft -- didn't blow people away with his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine. That 4.5 40-yard dash time ranked 21st among receivers and had some doubting whether or not Aiyuk was a first-round talent.

But Edwards knows the difference between test speed and game speed, and he likened Aiyuk's game speed to that of the greatest to ever do it.

“I'm not saying he's compared to this guy because he's not. Jerry Rice, if you ran him in the 40, you go, ‘this guy can’t run,’ ” Edwards told 95.7 The Game. “Jerry Rice in a football uniform, playing a football game? And I know, I tried to cover him -- you can’t catch him. That’s football speed. This guy (Aiyuk) has got football speed now. So don’t lose sight of that.”

The 49ers were shocked they were able to get Aiyuk at No. 25 overall. It took a trade up with the Minnesota Vikings, but the 49ers able to secure the receiver they had atop their draft board along with Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb.

Aiyuk is only 6-feet tall, but he has the explosiveness, run-after-the-catch ability and contested-catch prowess that had coach Kyle Shanahan lusting after him. Oh, and the 81-inch wingspan doesn't hurt.

 

"That’s what intrigued them, as well as big hands," Edwards told The Athletic. "He’s covered but he’s not covered, because of his length and his ability to adjust to the ball. He’s a really good hand-catcher. And that stands out.

It kind of shocks you that he’s only 6-foot. His length with his reach is something that helps him."

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Edwards coached another first-round receiver two years ago in N'Keal Harry. But he knew Aiyuk would be the next great one because he has the desire to be great in big moments.

"I think the Michigan State game (an ASU upset win in September) was where he set the tone of what the season was going to look like for him," Edwards told The Athletic. "He runs to the light -- he doesn’t run to shade in big moments. He wants the ball. I think that really got him going that game, going into the season, on the road, against a very good opponent, against a good secondary.

"And you just saw it from that game on. When we needed a big play in the passing game, he was able to provide it to us."

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With Emmanuel Sanders leaving to join the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers needed to find a receiver who could come in and help carry the load with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.

There's no doubt Shanahan already has been scheming up ways to get Aiyuk the ball in space to torment defenses. If he's as good as Edwards says and Shanahan believes, the 49ers' offense will be even more difficult to stop than it was a season ago.