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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk among PFF’s Year 3 breakout candidates

Jun 21, 2022 at 12:23 PM--

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was a hot pick last year as a candidate primed to have a breakout season. Instead, it was third-year wideout Deebo Samuel who emerged as one of the best in the game. Aiyuk was slow out of the gate, hauling in just one pass for six yards in the Niners' first two games. He played just 51 percent of the offensive snaps through Week 2.

Aiyuk finished the season strong, playing at least 90 percent of the offensive snaps in each game starting in Week 9. He amassed 43 receptions for 685 yards and four touchdowns during that span.

Can Aiyuk have a Samuel-like breakout season in his third year—minus the running back snaps. One thousand, four hundred five of Samuel's 1,770 all-purpose yards came as a receiver. In 2021, Aiyuk improved upon his rookie season numbers, racking up 826 total receiving yards, per Pro Football Reference. Another jump in production could make the Samuel-Aiyuk duo a headache for opposing defenses in 2022.

Pro Football Focus recently ranked the 10 best third-year breakout candidates heading into the 2022 NFL season. Aiyuk came in at No. 6 on the list, behind wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, pass rusher Jonathan Greenard, safety Kyle Dugger, guard Jonah Jackson, and pass rusher Trevis Gipson.

"Aiyuk was everyone's favorite breakout candidate in 2021," wrote PFF's Michael Renner. "So much so that he was going ahead of teammate Deebo Samuel in fantasy drafts. While that looks absurd in retrospect, the production difference was more a function of usage and not necessarily indicative of talent.

"Aiyuk was a separation machine last season despite only finishing with [826] yards. He hauled in over 50% of his contested opportunities and broke 18 tackles on 56 catches. If Samuel is out any length of time over his contract dispute, Aiyuk should have no problem whatsoever filling that role in the offense."

Assuming the 49ers can resolve the contract dilemma with Samuel, second-year quarterback Trey Lance should have a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal in 2022.


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