Though the Niners lost, Aiyuk’s presence didn’t go unnoticed, including some high praise from Baltimore Ravens veteran receiver Dez Bryant.
Bryant compared No. 11 Brandon Aiyuk’s play to a younger version of Atlanta Falcons’ No. 11 star Julio Jones. Agreeing with him was Aiyuk’s ex-teammate, Mohamed Sanu, who also played with Jones on the Falcons.
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A Hefty Compliment for a Rookie
That’s quite the compliment Bryant gave to Ayiuk. Jones was selected No. 6 overall in the 2011 NFL draft and has yet to disappoint Atlanta.
The Falcons star is 31 and has made an impact on the NFL as far as wideouts and athletes go. Jones is a two-time All-Pro and has made the Pro Bowl seven times. He has spent the past seven consecutive seasons putting up at least 1,000 receiving yards and has led the NFL twice in the stat.
To snag the Aiyuk, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers traded to get the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. This comes as a coincidence since Shanahan is very familiar with Jones as he was his offensive coordinator in Atlanta both times Jones went All-Pro.
That’s a lot of weight to put on Aiyuk, but he has made a solid case so far.
Just this past Monday, Aiyuk finished with five receptions for 95 yards and one score to give the Niners a lead. On the year, Aiyuk has 40 receptions for 541 yards and four touchdowns in nine games. He’s also explosive on the ground and has two rushing touchdowns.
Looking at Jones’ rookie season, he had 54 receptions for 959 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. Jones also had Matt Ryan at QB and COVID-19 didn’t exist back then.
Shanahan’s Hope for Aiyuk
Shanahan spoke with The Athletic a few months back promising that he and his staff would give the rookie a chance to exploit himself during the 2020 season.
“This guy wants to be great,” Shanahan said. “And I think he has the tools to be great. I think he has the mind-set to be great. And I promise you, schematically, we’re going to give him every chance to do that.”
With hard work, dedication, and a bump from other options being plagued with injuries and COVID-19 cases, Aiyuk is now a starting receiver as a rookie for the former Super Bowl contenders.
Hang on tight 49ers fans, Aiyuk is just getting his career in San Fran started.