Brandon Aiyuk has ample pressure on him as a rookie

Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State Sun Devils. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State Sun Devils. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Brandon Aiyuk must thrive under pressure as a rookie receiver in the NFL.

Even though he’s a rookie wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk faces a great deal of pressure this year.

Aiyuk is coming off two phenomenal seasons playing for Herm Edwards’ Arizona State Sun Devils in the Pac-12. In his senior season in Tempe, Auyik was First-Team All-Pac-12, as he had 65 catches for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. This culminated in him being the San Francisco 49ers‘ second first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft at No. 25 overall. Is he ready for his role?

If the 49ers plan on winning the NFC again and getting to Super Bowl 55 down in Tampa, San Francisco will need an incredible rookie season out of the former Arizona State standout. This was a loaded wide receiver draft with six going in the first round. Though he was the sixth of six, he is going to an offense coached by Kyle Shanahan and one that employs the zone blocking scheme.

Brandon Aiyuk must live up to lofty expectations as a rookie in 2020.

Even though the 49ers were the best team in the NFC last year, there are no guarantees they’ll even win the NFC West again. The Seattle Seahawks were already a playoff team and were going to push the 49ers for the division crown anyway. While the Los Angeles Rams may have seen their Super Bowl window close, the Arizona Cardinals might be a fringe playoff team this season.

There are no easy wins in the NFC West this year, as conceivably all four teams can contend for playoff berths in arguably the deepest and best division in football. There is little margin for error for even a great team from last year like the 49ers. There is also very little wiggle room when it comes to offensive firepower from the wide receiver position in San Francisco. He must step up.

Yes, the 49ers have arguably the best tight end in football in George Kittle. However, with Deebo Samuel suffering a foot injury this offseason and Emmanuel Sanders signing with the New Orleans Saints in his free agency, Aiyuk must assert himself as a viable receiving threat right away in San Francisco. Otherwise, it could be a frustrating year for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

We know the 49ers will be able to run the ball in the Shanahan zone blocking scheme. We also know that Garoppolo’s rapport with his favorite target Kittle is the best part of this 49ers’ passing offense. While the defensive line is this team’s strength, a lack of depth at wide receiver is this team’s weakness. Who’s their best veteran wide receiver? Dante Pettis or Travis Benjamin?

So what would constitute a solid rookie season for Aiyuk? Under normal circumstances, maybe 50 receptions for 750 yard and five touchdowns would suffice in his rookie year. However, we actually may have to up the ante to what he did in his all-conference senior season at Arizona State. The 49ers may need 65 grabs for close to 1,000 yards and seven or eight touchdowns out of him.

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Asking a rookie wide receiver to push for 1,000 receiving yards in a season is a bit much. Then again, there are plenty of targets to be had in this offense is Aiyuk emerges as the No. 2 option in the passing game after Kittle. Aiyuk is a player Edwards thought the world of at Arizona State and there is a reason the 49ers traded up to get him towards the end of the first round back in April.

There is a ton of pressure on Aiyuk to perform as a rookie, but that’s why he’s a first-round pick.