Jimmy Garoppolo may not have gotten to spend as much time as he would like with the San Francisco 49ers’ youngest receiving threat, but it didn’t take long to impress.
After all, 2020 NFL first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk does have an impressive resume behind him, exploding in his final year at Arizona State which saw him sky-rocket up the NFL’s draft boards ahead of this year’s draft.
It was certainly unfortunate that Aiyuk aggravated his hamstring in training camp, mostly due to the fact that the 22-year-old receiver was impressing Jimmy G and the rest of the 49ers throughout the offseason.
However, San Francisco is taking the right approach to Aiyuk’s recovery, completely removing him from practice to give him plenty of time to rest ahead of the Week 1 opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
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Speaking to 49ers media members earlier this week, Garoppolo opened up on what he thought of the rookie receiver’s first couple months with the offense.
Before training camp ever began, Aiyuk was with Jimmy G and several others out in Nashville, Tennessee, which means that they could develop some form of chemistry.
“When he’s out there, he’s ready to play,” Garoppolo said. “He’s always ready, always prepared mentally, physically. He’s able to bring an element to the game. It’s unique… He’s so long, his catch radius, you can put the ball anywhere around him, he’s going to make a play on it. And so, it’s nice having a guy like that. That little comfort blanket, who he’s going to make the tough catches, the contested catches, and make you look good doing it.”
That’s exceptionally high praise from any NFL quarterback, much less one that is looking to lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl return in his second full season in the league.
Aiyuk’s Place in The Team
You don’t draft a receiver in the first round with the idea that they won’t see a considerable amount of gametime, much less a starting spot.
It’s a tough decision for San Francisco though, as Deebo has assuredly locked up his spot after a dynamic rookie season of his own, while Kendrick Bourne’s consistency and energy was a key cog in the 49ers’ offense last season.
One would think that Aiyuk’s injury and missed time could see Bourne retain his role as San Francisco’s No. 2 receiver, but if Aiyuk is healthy and ready for Week 1, he may get the starting nod over the three-year veteran.
The other two scenarios is that Aiyuk is ready, but head coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers think it’d be best to ease him back after the injury, which is probably the safe move after a hamstring injury.
Finally, if Aiyuk is unable to suit up against the Cardinals, it could throw a bit more of a challenge to the former Sun Devil. Opportunities are hard to come by in the NFL, and Bourne has proven to be good enough to take those chances.
If Bourne lights up Arizona in the opening game, is it smart to reduce his play time to get Aiyuk in the mix?
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the NFL for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.