Fantasy Football 2020 NFL Draft Profile: Is Brandon Aiyuk a one-year wonder or long-time contributor?


Brandon Aiyuk burst on the scene at Arizona State, replacing N’Keal Harry as the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2019 and racking up just a few more yards through the air than Harry ever did. But it took Aiyuk a long time to get to that spot. After dominating high schools in Reno, Nev., Aiyuk went to junior college at Sierra College in California because of bad grades. Following two seasons of impressive production there, Aiyuk transferred to Arizona State because they offered him the chance to play receiver and not just return kicks. While his contributions as a junior were pretty minimal, he provided plenty of highlight-reel material as a senior, pushing him into the top-10 receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft class.

Numbers to Know

Height: 5-11 5/8

Weight: 205 pounds

Date of Birth: March 17, 1998 (Week 1 age: 22)

Hand: 9 3/4 inches

Arm: 33 1/2 inches

Wingspan: 80 inches

40 time: 4.5

Prospect Stats

2019 stats: 12 games, 65 receptions, 1,192 yards (18.3 yards per catch), eight touchdowns

In four games against top-25 ranked teams, Aiyuk caught 15 passes for 263 yards and one touchdown

Career stats: 25 games, 98 receptions, 1,666 yards (17.0 yards per catch), 11 touchdowns

Known Injury History

  • Core muscle surgery, April 2020

Strengths

Aiyuk has experience lining up everywhere on the field but notably saw slot work in the Sun Devils’ two-minute offense. Aiyuk’s best trait is his footwork, both off the snap and in his routes. His dancer’s feet are his primary means of getting open, juking and freezing defenders to gain just enough separation with quick cuts and shiftiness. Paired with his good speed, Aiyuk is among the best catch-and-run receivers in the draft class. There’s ample evidence of Aiyuk using his quick feet to get open near the line of scrimmage, bring in the pass, and then speed off to the end zone without getting touched much. He’s also adept at tracking the ball downfield and making big-play grabs once he’s got a step on his defender. Helping him in that aspect (and in his game overall) is his 80-inch wingspan, creating an atypical catch radius advantage for a receiver his size.

Concerns

When he’s not running a slant or a screen, or when his quarterback doesn’t buy time for him to get open on an improvisational play, Aiyuk frequently is covered tightly and struggles to make contested catches (3 of 14 on such plays over his career per Pro Football Focus). He also didn’t run a full variety of routes at Arizona State, so that might be something he’s got to learn in his first season.

Aiyuk’s physicality is also a minor issue. His yards after contact are plentiful because he can slip past the defender’s touch, and he can definitely break through lower-body tackles, but pushing forward for yards once wrapped up isn’t something he did much. The lack of physicality also comes into play on 50-50 balls, when he sees a target in tight coverage and when he blocks — his inconsistency as a run blocker will drive coaches nuts until it’s fixed.  

Fantasy Comparison

Aiyuk totally reminded me of Deebo Samuel from last year’s draft class in that he’s a catch-and-run specialist with a stocky body, though Samuel had a better Rolodex of routes coming out of school and did a better job of running through contact while Aiyuk is better at catching bombs. Point is, Aiyuk could become a rookie contributor along the same lines as Samuel. He could easily work in the slot right away and find space past veteran cornerbacks thanks to his feet, and an accurate quarterback could help him pick up all kinds of yardage after the catch. I’d be a little surprised if Aiyuk had 57 catches and 803 receiving yards as a rookie as Samuel did, but it’s certainly within his range, and it might eventually become the normal for him.

Favorite Fantasy Fits

If the Packers don’t give up the farm to move up in the first round, Aiyuk should be on their radar with either of their first two picks (30th and 62nd overall). He’d be a terrific complementary receiver who could fill up the slot better than anyone else they have on the roster besides Davante Adams. Aiyuk would also be a fun addition to the Ravens offense — he’d push all of Lamar Jackson’s targets for playing time, plus he’s used to playing with a quarterback who could keep plays alive with his feet.

The Broncos, Dolphins and Jaguars also have a need for a receiver who could work in and out of the slot, though those destinations aren’t promised to be as good as the other two. 

Fantasy Bottom Line

Aiyuk doesn’t have the complete game or high upside that a lot of other receivers have in the class, but it’s not wrong to expect him to be a serviceable receiver over the course of his career. Someone will take him late in every seasonal redraft this August as a bench player with potential to become a starter. The excitement for him will be a little stronger in dynasty/keeper formats where he’ll get selected close to 100th overall based on his career-long potential contributions. Expect Aiyuk to get taken between 10th and 16th overall in every rookie-only draft.

Which players are poised for breakouts, which sleepers do you need to jump on, and which busts should you avoid at all costs in your Fantasy football league? Visit SportsLine now to get early rankings, plus see which WR is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.





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