Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Jeremiah projects 700 yards, 5 TDs for 49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk

Aug 21, 2020 at 6:13 AM--

Daniel Jeremiah predicts 50 catches for 700 yards with five touchdowns for 49ers rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The San Francisco 49ers may be leaning on wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk during his rookie campaign a little more than initially expected — at least, early in the season. Deebo Samuel's availability for Week 1 remains a question mark while the team lost second-year wideout Jalen Hurd for the second consecutive season, this time to a torn ACL.

"We're expecting [Aiyuk] to play a lot this year, just like we were expecting Deebo and Jalen last year," head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Thursday.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Media spends a lot of time studying each draft class and, on Thursday, made projections for notable offensive rookies, including Aiyuk. The analyst envisions San Francisco's No. 25 overall pick out of Arizona State to rack up 50 catches for 700 yards with five touchdowns during his first NFL season.

"Aiyuk fills the Deebo Samuel role until Samuel's healthy enough to return from his foot injury," Jeremiah writes in his best-case scenario for Aiyuk. "His wide-ranging skill set and Kyle Shanahan's system are an ideal pairing."

Of course, having Samuel ready to go early would eat into some of Aiyuk's rookie numbers, which would not necessarily be a bad thing — at least, not for the 49ers offense as a whole.

"Samuel comes back sooner than expected, and there's just not enough footballs to go around for Aiyuk to light up the stat sheet," Jeremiah writes. "His primary impact comes in the return game, and he provides a few highlight-reel plays throughout the season."

It doesn't sound like Aiyuk objects to the idea of contributing in the return game during his first year in the NFL.

"I think it's something I could do," Aiyuk told reporters on Friday, "but I'm back there practicing at it, working at it daily, and if they need me to return punts, then it's something that I can and will do."

As for Jeremiah's projections, he predicts four receivers — Henry Ruggs of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos, CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys, and Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings — to all have more receiving yards than Aiyuk during their rookie campaigns. The analyst has Jefferson leading the group with 1,050 yards and seven scores.

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