Brandon Aiyuk, the No. 25 overall pick by the 49ers in the 2020 NFL Draft, said he models his game after a three-time Pro Bowl receiver, but he really resembles another NFL wideout familar to 49ers fans even more.
Aiyuk spoke to Bay Area local media via video conference after he was selected by the 49ers and shared how he emulates Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“I just feel like he was somebody that I watched a lot because we're similar in builds, similar playing style," Aiyuk said. "And then, what he does after the catch.
“I think he was a guy that had a huge upside coming out of college. Not a lot of a lot of numbers, but just a great talent. So, I think just Odell is one of those guys that I watched a lot and somebody that I try to model my game after.”
Aiyuk, however, might be more similar to a player that he will share time with in the 49ers receiving room: Deebo Samuel.
Aiyuk, like Samuel, has a history as a running back. Coach Kyle Shanahan used that to the 49ers' advantage throughout the 2019 season. Jet sweeps, end arounds and reverses were all a part of Samuel’s repertoire. Aiyuk offers the same versatility.
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“So, with my back background, I played running back early on in my career, so I just feel like that contributes to the yards after the catch,” Aiyuk said. “After I catch the football, I kind of just change back into that running back that I was early on.”
“Yeah, so for me, I take a lot of pride in my yards after the catch. Early on at Arizona State, I didn't get a lot of touches and one of my coaches told me that when you do get the ball just go score a touchdown. So I kind of just have that mentality that every time I touch the football I want to go score a touchdown.”
Samuel and Aiyuk are also both incredibly effective after the catch. Samuel closed out his rookie season with an average of 8.3 yards after catch. Aiyuk averaged a whopping 21.0 yards after the catch in his final season at Arizona State.
Sun Devils football coach Herm Edwards spoke about Aiyuk’s shiftiness while at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
“He’s a fabulous player with the ball in his hands,” Edwards said. “We know that whether it’s kickoffs, punts, in space, he can make people miss. So this is why he’s got a talent that helps you in any moment. He can make a play and he’s done that the last couple of weeks.”
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Samuel finished out his rookie season as the 49ers' No. 1 wide receiver with 57 receptions for 802 yards. With another weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers could be set for much higher production in 2020.