People keep telling me that this is a deep wide receiver class. People keep telling me to watch the movie Elf too. Yep, people tell me a lot of things. But for now, I am inclined to listen to the people telling me about the WRs. While this class doesn’t seem to have a Julio Jones or an Amari Cooper, there does seem to be no end of playmakers. One of these is a player I am very high on. He’s someone that coaches should look to find ways to get the ball to, whether it’s from a pass, a rush attempt, or even a kick return — a player like Deebo Samuel, for instance. Samuel chipped in with 802 receiving yards as a rookie and added a further 159 on the ground. That was just in the regular season, too. Samuel also had 127 receiving yards and 102 rushing yards in the postseason. Creative coaches want players that can perform in different ways on their offenses.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Brandon Aiyuk, late of Arizona State.
Aiyuk hails from Reno, Nevada, and attended Robert McQueen High School. He played wide receiver and defensive back for the Lancers and also returned kicks. He was not heavily recruited out of high school and found himself at Sierra College, a Junior College in Rocklin, California. In two seasons with the Wolverines, Aiyuk reeled in 89 receptions for 1,533 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also added 581 yards and two touchdowns returning kickoffs, with another 327 yards and a touchdown on 17 punt returns. Oh, and don’t forget 58 rushing yards and another score. All told, Aiyuk finished his time in JuCo with 2499 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns. Not too shabby.
With two years of eligibility remaining to him, Aiyuk looked to transfer out of the JuCo ranks. This time around, Aiyuk was rated as the No.11 WR in the 2018 class by 247Sports. He received offers from 11 schools and had visits lined up at Colorado State, Kansas, and Tennessee. However, he would end up at none of these schools but instead joined Arizona State. Why? They were willing to give him a shot at WR before turning him into the defensive back coach Herm Edwards wanted him to be.
COLLEGE PRODUCTION AT ASU
Aiyuk enjoyed a quiet first season with the Sun Devils, playing second fiddle in the passing game behind N’Keal Harry. He was still able to contribute on special teams though, returning 15 kicks for 339 yards. Once Harry had left for the NFL and the New England Patriots, Aiyuk was ready to step up. And step up he did.
In 12 games in 2019, Aiyuk went over 100-yards receiving five times. This included a 196 yard, three-touchdown outing against Washington State. Aiyuk went over 51 yards in all but two of his games and had five or more receptions in eight games. His 18.3 yards per reception is a ridiculous number, as is the fact that Aiyuk led all draft-eligible WRs with 9.9 yards after the catch per reception during his time with ASU. He was still active in the return game too, with 446 kickoff return yards and 226 yards returning punts (and one touchdown).
When looking at Aiyuk’s production with ASU, we can see similarities with a few notable players in recent times. His closest comp is current Dallas Cowboy Michael Gallup, with Rishard Matthews 1 not far behind. And look a little further down the list. There’s Stefon Diggs.
Aiyuk’s forty-yard dash time at the combine was something of a disappointment, given how fast he seems to look on film. However, a 4.50 time does not exactly make him a plodder. His arm length and hand size certainly stand out, as does his barely credible 80-inch wingspan.
The vertical jump shows me that Aiyuk is not just a player you send down the field on nine routes and wait for him to outrun the defense. This leaping ability, coupled with his freakish wingspan, makes him a player that you can throw the ball up to and let him win it over the little guys.
Aiyuk appears to be a player that the scouting services are warming to. The Draft Network has him as their WR9. He’s the WR6 over at CBS. Daniel Jeremiah’s latest mock draft has Aiyuk landing with the New Orleans Saints as the fifth WR off the board. He’s a player on the rise, folks. Get excited.
Don’t get it twisted; I don’t think Brandon Aiyuk is the most polished, most well developed WR in this class. But he is a player with enough of a skill set that he can contribute to an NFL offense straight away. As long as a competent NFL offensive coach knows how to utilize a player like Aiyuk. Joe Marino of the Draft Network sums it up nicely as he writes
Aiyuk does have some “niche” tendencies, but the areas he does excel in represents strong value to a franchise. He doesn’t come without restrictions but Aiyuk’s big-play ability makes them easier to live with. Aiyuk can contribute right away from the slot with manufactured touches and vertical shots while serving as the primary return guy while he looks to become a more complete wide receiver.
Manufactured touches … sounds like Deebo Samuel to me. Plus, we should not forget that Samuel was No. 5 among all NFL WRs with 461 yards after the catch in 2019, and that sounds like something Aiyuk should be shooting for. Sign me up for this.
- Matthews was another long-standing favorite of mine. (back)