To say 49ers rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk impressed in his first NFL season would be an understatement.
The 22-year-old out of Arizona State fascinated on all fronts, regardless of the heavy expectations general manager John Lynch and the 49ers placed on him. Lynch joined The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" on Friday, where he shared why he believed Aiyuk was so successful, and what San Francisco expects of him going into next season.
"Brandon Aiyuk is everything we thought he would be, and a little bit more," Lynch said. "He had the core muscle surgery over the offseason. That, coupled with [COVID-19] and not having a traditional offseason, he really wasn’t able to train the way that a receiver needs to train to get ready for a season."
Aiyuk's whirlwind of a rookie year included excellence on the field, but also a few injuries. When healthy, Aiyuk consistently one of the 49ers' top targets, and one of the most dominant rookie receivers in the NFL. However, various injuries, including a hamstring strain, two stints on the reserve/COVID-19 list and an eventual season-ending high ankle sprain at the end of the year, limited Aiyuk to 12 games.
The good news is that in those 12 games, Aiyuk simply shined. He caught 60 passes for 748 yards, catching five touchdowns and rushing for two more.
"We asked a lot of him," Lynch admitted. "We wanted him to be right there with Deebo [Samuel] as our premiere guys. That was a lot."
"Once he got out there though, you saw he improved each and every week," Lynch added.
Part of that stems from Aiyuk's tenacity, which has long been on display since his time at Arizona State. Another comes from pure skill, which is why San Francisco remains encouraged that Aiyuk's stock can only continue to rise.
"We’re really excited about Brandon’s make up and just the skill set he brings," Lynch said. "He’s got a lot to give and he’s only going to get better."
Aiyuk echoed his general manager's remarks earlier in the week, saying his main goal heading into 2021 was to build his body up in the offseason.
"Last year, I had to go through some things in the offseason that didn’t allow me to have my body prepared and ready for the long NFL season," Aiyuk said. "So I felt like I was playing catch up. Just being able to go into this offseason and attack this offseason the right way so that when the 2021 season starts, I’m ready to go."
A more traditional offseason where Aiyuk can utilize a normal training routine would obviously be beneficial for the first-rounder, and the 49ers are confident this winter will be pivotal for his success in his upcoming second year. In Aiyuk's mind, he still has plenty of work to do.
"That’s already inside of me, that I feel like I haven’t done anything, yet," Aiyuk said. "It’s easy to stay grounded when you’re still working toward things. That’s the goal, to always be working toward something."