NFL player prop of the day: Brandon Aiyuk is ready to reach new heights

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Brandon Aiyuk was drafted in the first round of the 2020 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. In his first season in the league, the Arizona State product posted 748 receiving yards in just 12 games. As the season went on, Aiyuk's role in the offense grew and so did his production. 

With Jimmy Garoppolo healthy and Trey Lance waiting in the wings, Aiyuk will work with a good NFL quarterback for the first time in his career. Oddsmakers are projecting a jump from Aiyuk, as his over/under is set at 875.5 receiving yards for his sophomore season.

Aiyuk dominated at times

From Oct. 25 to Dec. 20, Aiyuk played in six games. Over that period of time, Aiyuk posted 45 receptions, 568 yards and four touchdowns. That comes out to 7.5 receptions and 95 yards on a per-game basis. If you extrapolate that stretch out to a full 17-game season, it comes out to 128 receptions for 1,609 yards. 

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in a 2020 regular season game. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Making projections based on small sample sizes is obviously a flawed process, but it shows what kind of ceiling Aiyuk has. Aiyuk benefitted from injuries to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, but he also took complete advantage. He proved he has the talent and is capable of being a number one receiver in this league. Aiyuk's 62.3 receiving yards per game was the second highest amongst all rookie wide receivers, behind only Justin Jefferson. 

Kyle Shanahan loves his number one receivers

Under Kyle Shanahan, the San Francisco 49ers have developed a reputation as a run-first team. However, in four seasons as coach, Shanahan only relied heavily on the run in 2019. His other three seasons, his teams have passed at a league average or better rate. 

Prior to becoming head coach of the 49ers, Shanahan served as offensive coordinator in Houston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta. 

In Houston, Andre Johnson posted back-to-back 1500 yard seasons under Shanahan. In Washington, Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon posted 1000 yard seasons. Jabar Gaffney had the best season of his career. In Cleveland, Andrew Hawkins posted a 824-yard season with Shanahan. This was almost 300 yards more than Hawkins' second-most productive NFL season. In Atlanta, Julio Jones had over 3200 receiving yards in his two seasons under Shanahan. 

Shanahan is one of the league's brightest offensive minds. He played a part in the decision to use a first-round pick on Aiyuk. I'm confident he will find a way to effectively use Aiyuk. 

Quarterback play will be improved

In 2020, Jimmy Garoppolo started in just six games. He finished only four of them. Nick Mullens appeared in 10 games while C.J. Beathard made six appearances. Currently, Mullens is expected to join the Cleveland Browns practice squad while Beathard is competing with Jake Luton to be the Jacksonville Jaguars' back-up quarterback. 

While Garoppolo might not be a game-changing quarterback, he's an extremely capable game manager who can put his weapons in position to succeed. If he's healthy, he'll provide a tremendous upgrade compared to the quarterback play of the 49ers last season. 

If Garoppolo fails to impress, rookie Trey Lance is waiting in the wings. Lance is among the favorites to win the offensive rookie of the year award. Lance was drafted third overall in the most recent NFL draft. His ceiling is very high and if he takes over the starting job, it'll be an exciting time for the 49ers.

Whether it's Garoppolo or Lance, Aiyuk will be a beneficiary after suffering through a season of poor quarterback play. Despite dealing with this and also missing four games due to injury and COVID concerns, Aiyuk still posted 748 yards. 

With the over/under set at 875.5 yards, you need Aiyuk to improve by just 128 yards in his sophomore season. If he stays healthy this season, he'll have five more games compared to last season. There's a lot of reasons to expect Aiyuk to improve, whether it's the natural growth in his second season, the improved play at quarterback or his ability to stay on the field for a full season. If he plays 17 games, I'd project Aiyuk to eclipse 1000 yards this season. Therefore, I'd look to play the over on 875.5 yards for Aiyuk. 

Stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com

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