Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Only three NFL players ran faster than 49ers rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk last season

May 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM--

Brandon Aiyuk ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Not alarmingly slow, but not what many would hope from a prospect looking to be one of the top wide receivers drafted, especially in a rookie class that is so deep at the position.

The San Francisco 49ers selected Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick and were so impressed with him that they traded up to do so. Team decision-makers didn't let the 40-time bother them, because they knew Aiyuk was capable of so much more.

The 49ers had seen it. They even had proof.

Aside from what the team's scouts had told general manager John Lynch and company, San Francisco had GPS data from Aiyuk's final collegiate season with Arizona State.

It turns out, the receiver can run with the best of the NFL. Matt Barrows of The Athletic reports that, according to Next Gen Stats, only three NFL players had faster run times last season than Aiyuk during his senior year. One of those three players was former 49ers running back Matt Breida, who hit 22.3 mph on an 83-yard touchdown run during Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns—the fastest recorded time of the season.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the other two. They are Chicago Bears receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (22.23 mph in Week 2) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Brandon Wilson (22.03 in Week 6).

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Aiyuk, at one point during last season, recorded a speed of 21.97 mph.

So why the more pedestrian 40-time if he seemingly hit higher top speeds in college?

Aiyuk was dealing with a core-muscle injury, which, at the suggestion of the 49ers, he underwent surgery to repair leading to the draft. If that injury sounds familiar, it's because it's the same one that forced defensive end Nick Bosa to miss most of his final collegiate season at Ohio State in 2018. Although, Aiyuk's injury was less severe.

49ers area scout Dom DeCicco, a former linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh, was entrusted to do most of the work on Aiyuk. The receiver with the Sun Devils saw more of a workload during his senior year, recording career-highs of 65 receptions, 1,192 yards, and eight scores.

"Dom DeCicco brought up a great point because Dom had had the same injury," 49ers Vice President of Player Personnel Adam Peters told Barrows. "And he told me that to be able to run a 4.5 with that injury — it's not only painful but it's really, really hard to do."

Peters goes on to note that whenever you see such drastic differences between 40-times and GPS times, it is more important than ever to "really dig in" and trust your scouts, like DeCicco.

Click here to read Barrows' entire feature from his conversation with Peters.

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