Head coach Kyle Shanahan knew that too heading into the 2020 NFL draft. The Niners actually traded up from No. 31 overall, giving up two selections, to move up to No. 25 so Aiyuk wouldn’t get away from him.
With injuries plaguing the Niners’ roster, there’s no reason Aiyuk can’t end up stealing the spotlight in the final seven games and Rice confirmed that.
“He’s going to get much better,” Rice told Nick Wagoner Rice of ESPN. “I think, as he gets older, he’s going to continue to develop, and I’m expecting big things from him, to be honest with you. Because I think he has everything where he’s got the route running, where he’s got the hands, that awareness on the football field, and he’s one of those guys that he knows he’s a playmaker and that he could put points on the board at any time.”
That’s some high praise from one of the best to ever play the game at a wide receiver.
Shanahan Continues to Pressue Aiyuk
Aiyuk has appeared in seven of nine games so far this season. He missed one game due to a hamstring injury and another because of close contact with wideout Kendrick Bourne, who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Currently, Aiyuk has 28 receptions for 371 yards and two touchdowns in addition to four carries for 69 yards and two more scores. With Deebo Samuel dealing with a hamstring injury and tight end George Kittle out for most likely the entire season, Aiyuk will be getting a lot of attention.
And he’s doing just fine in the spotlight. In his last two games, the rookie reeled in 14 catches for 206 yards and a score. Due to his success, Shanahan isn’t afraid to put pressure on him.
“I’ve been very proud of Brandon these last few weeks,” Shanahan told ESPN. “Just like we did to Deebo his rookie year, we’re putting a little bit more pressure on him earlier than I would like to. You don’t like to put all that on a guy coming in and especially a guy who missed most of training camp and didn’t have an offseason. What I’ve loved about him is the pressure that he’s had, you don’t get to learn, you think you do good from, the standard of your whole life and then you get into a meeting with us on Monday and you have no idea how we see it. A lot of guys don’t react totally the right way. Just us challenging Brandon and putting that pressure on him, I see a guy who’s responded in the right way.”
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Aiyuk Wasn’t Off to A Great Start
Earlier in the season, Aiyuk told ESPN he would go into a game and solely focus on his job on certain plays. He failed to pay any attention to the defense and how to attack it.
Things have change for Aiyuk since then
“When I’m lined up where I’m supposed to be and in the right spots, I think it just plays out a lot better that way,” Aiyuk said.
With Aiyuk comfortable now and Rice’s perception on him, there’s no doubt we’ll see greatness from him.