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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Aiyuk on pace for career year as 49ers soar to 4-0 record

Oct 2, 2023 at 11:10 AM--

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On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers looked dominant in their 35-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Several players had standout performances, including quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey.

Another was wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, whose exceptional performance earned him the game's highest overall grade (93.4) from Pro Football Focus. The grade doubles as the highest of the receiver's career.

Aiyuk is proving to be one of the NFL's rising stars, which will aid him next offseason when he seeks a contract extension with the 49ers.

Aiyuk has compiled an impressive stat line through three starts this season, registering 17 receptions for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Even after missing a game (Week 3), he is on pace to amass a staggering 1,706 receiving yards. He has quickly asserted himself as the 49ers' best receiver.

Make no mistake, though. Aiyuk is a team-first player.

"He cares about this team so much," McCaffrey said after Sunday's game. "Last game, he'll probably be pissed at me for saying this, but he was kind of in tears that he couldn't suit up and play. And so, to me, that meant a lot because I saw how much he wanted to be out there with us."

Aiyuk could not play against the New York Giants because of a shoulder injury sustained in the previous game. He returned from the injury and turned in a performance that included a career-high 148 receiving yards.

"And even though it was something minor, he wanted to play (against the Giants) so bad," McCaffrey continued. "So to come out here and have the day that he did is awesome. Just a great guy to have on our team."

One of the most impressive aspects of Aiyuk's game has been his ability to make explosive plays. He has 12 such plays this season, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Aiyuk's 4.57 yards per route run leads the league, highlighting his effectiveness within head coach Kyle Shanahan's offensive game plans.

Aiyuk's 93.6 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus is the best in the NFL, topping marquee names like Tyreek Hill (92.5), Justin Jefferson (91.0), and even his 49ers teammate, McCaffrey (90.1). Even more remarkable is Aiyuk's perfect record while catching passes this season. The fourth-year player has zero drops through Week 4, proving to be a reliable target for his second-year quarterback, Purdy.

Aiyuk's playmaking ability solidifies his role as a cornerstone player for the 49ers, something that will undoubtedly come into play at the negotiating table next offseason.

As the 2023 season progresses, all eyes will be on Aiyuk to see if he can sustain his exceptional play.

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