Aiyuk is being taken ahead of Deebo Samuel in drafts, but only by less than two rounds or so.
Aiyuk operated as Kyle Shanahan’s X receiver, while Deebo’s usage was very different.
Deebo’s a baller, but he’s not going to get the higher value targets. His average depth of targets was only 2.2 yards in 2020. In 2019, it was the lowest among all 49ers WRs at 7.6 without Aiyuk on the team.
Deebo’s role last year was very revolved around getting him the ball around the line of scrimmage in various ways, and while he’ll have his games, he won’t be the 49ers WR I’ll be going after this season.
Aiyuk was at a 9.9 aDOT last season as the X, and performed whenever given the opportunity in terms of targets. In games with 7+ targets in his rookie season, here’s what Aiyuk has done:
Overall, Aiyuk’s usage was top-20 in terms of weighted opportunity (combination of team share of targets and air yards), per airyards.com.
The usage does make sense; Shanahan has a history of feeding his X receiver. Not only Kyle, but Mike Shanahan as well. In the case of Andre Johnson and Julio Jones, the talent was obvious. But the disparity between them and the next WR in terms of total targets was pretty large; is it a coincidence that Julio had his best season under Kyle? Pierre Garcon was another example of a hyper-targeted X receiver with Kyle as his OC in Washington.
Aiyuk has the skillset of being a legit #1 receiver in the league according to Matt Harmon’s (@mattharmon_byb) Reception Perception Profile on him. His route running in 2020 is indicative of him being a future star… and Harmon’s charting is as close to a crystal ball as there has been on future WR success in the NFL.
Don’t underestimate Aiyuk as someone who can potentially lead the 49ers in targets by the end of 2021, and yes, that includes George Kittle. The upside is there.