Brandon Aiyuk Shows Incredible Potential (2020 NFL Draft)
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Weight: 205 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.5 seconds
Vertical Jump: 40 inches
Broad Jump: 128 inches
3-Cone Drill: NA
(Games Watched: Michigan State (2019) | Oregon State (2019) | Oregon (2019) | Washington State (2019) | Arizona (2019))
I’m going to be honest…Brandon Aiyuk has been one of my toughest evaluations this year. For context, when I’m sitting down to go through tape evaluation on these WR prospects, I’m typically tearing through them around December/January. With my scouting process, I look for a minimum of three games of tape and then I will grade the players based on what I saw and observed.
When I watched Aiyuk, I watched Michigan State, Oregon State, and Oregon and came away extremely confused. NFL scouts and people in the media were hyping this player up to be a late-1st round NFL Draft pick and I did not see that at all. I saw a player who could contribute on special teams right away, but one that needed a lot of development. The raw traits were certainly there, but I definitely did not see the refinement to put him up in the upper echelon of this WR class.
Because of that, Aiyuk has been in the cellar of my WR rankings this year and I’ve been perfectly comfortable going against the grain with that. However, when I sat down to write this rookie profile, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and watch a couple more games to see if I still felt good about my evaluation.
After watching Arizona and Washington State, I feel like I’m watching two completely different prospects. Aiyuk is much more refined in the latter two games than he was earlier on in the season and it’s left me torn on where to place him in my rankings. He’s better than I gave him credit for or observed the first time around, but what does that mean for his fantasy football outlook?
Which version of Aiyuk will show up in the NFL? Is he ready to contribute to a NFL team right away?
Those questions are answered here in my detailed scouting report on Brandon Aiyuk (ratings out of five stars):
According to PFF, Aiyuk played a total of 655 snaps in 2019. Out of that total, only 102 snaps came out of the slot. Aiyuk’s best fit is going to be on the perimeter of the offense and working downfield. He brings good size to the position and showed an incredible ability to shed tackles with strength in his lower half. He’s also a top-notch special teams player and has experience returning both kicks and punts.
"He's tough, explosive and adds special teams value."
— NFL (@NFL) March 11, 2020
Route Running/Ability to Separate
My early impression on Aiyuk was that he was not a diverse route-runner, but this seemed to change towards the latter half of the season. He was given more routes to run and showed an ability to sink quickly in and out of his breaks. He’s not an elite separator though unless he’s given the opportunity to build up a head of steam. This is why he’s so dangerous on 9-routes downfield, but he’s going to have to work on his separation ability if he’s going to win in the NFL.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, #ASU:
• Like a RB after the catch
• Big play waiting to happen (+)
• Turns 5-yard catches into 50-yarders
• Strong through contact
• Play patiencepic.twitter.com/m6cwpPlrFC
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 5, 2020
This is Aiyuk’s claim to fame and what has people buzzing in NFL circles. His ability to stretch the field and make plays after the catch is what is most enticing about him. He’s still a bit raw as a prospect, but the upside is certainly there. I would’ve liked to see a bit faster 40-yard dash time from Aiyuk to truly feel comfortable with the role that he’ll be asked to play in an offense, but 4.5 is certainly not a bad time, by any means. My question with Aiyuk is his agility and burst, since I didn’t see elite ability in those categories when watching his tape.
Brandon Aiyuk tore up Oregon – his explosiveness with the ball in his hands is tremendous pic.twitter.com/ByA2po9fF8
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) February 9, 2020
According to PFF, Aiyuk saw 99 targets in 2019. On those targets, Aiyuk saw 6 drops and only hauled in 2 contested catches. Those are concerning statistics for a player that’s not going to be able to run as wide open in the NFL as he did at Arizona State. The corners are faster and stronger and he won’t be able to separate as well downfield as he did in college. He’ll be asked to make more catches in contested situations and tighter windows than he was previously, which he did not show a proficiency in. Additionally, Aiyuk tends to make body catches way more than I would prefer to see and it’s certainly a cause for concern at the next level.
#ArizonaState WR Brandon Aiyuk is one of the most underrated NFL prospects in this class.
Poor pursuit angle by the safety, but Aiyuk’s route speed forced the miss and did the rest. pic.twitter.com/smMjMdEm2w
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 12, 2019
Aiyuk excels at tracking the ball downfield, which is important given the role that he’ll play in the NFL. While he’s able to make minor adjustments if the ball is thrown within his catch radius, I saw some deficiencies at adjusting and shifting momentum when it’s outside his window. This could come down to the lack of agility or twitch that I saw and could be an issue if he lands with an inaccurate QB downfield.
After missing the Senior Bowl with a minor groin issue, Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk is expected to be full-go at the combine — and he should fly. That and a couple other draft injury updates here @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/kInjwA8mXA
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 19, 2020
After the Catch
Aiyuk’s a speed demon and is lethal when he’s allowed to build up a head of steam. However, there are more than a few instances on his tape where he is unable to quickly stop his momentum. He was used on screens frequently at Arizona State and there were occasions where he would run into the back of his blockers because he couldn’t halt his speed and quickly shift side to side to line up with his blocks. For comparison, Jerry Jeudy has incredible start/stop ability and Aiyuk pales in comparison to him. With that being said, I’m curious if the injury he’s dealt with with his core is to blame here? Aiyuk’s great when he’s given open grass, but there’s less and less of that at the NFL level, which would require that he ends up with an innovative offensive coordinator who can scheme him open.
I've been a harsh critic of Brandon Aiyuk for this entire pre-draft process. The games that I watched previously showed some serious flaws.
However, I've now gone back and watched his Arizona and Washington State games. This kid's a lot better than I gave him credit for… pic.twitter.com/ILzog9ymSn
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) April 11, 2020
Projected Draft Spot
At the time of writing, Aiyuk is still receiving buzz for an early 2nd-round NFL Draft pick. With that being said, he did just undergo surgery to repair a core muscle that had been bothering him all season. That injury, combined with the fact that NFL teams aren’t able to do their own medical checks, may push him a little bit further down the draft board. Aiyuk’s dealt with nagging injuries all pre-draft process too, which caused him to miss out on the Senior Bowl. In my personal opinion, I believe that Aiyuk should be a 3rd-round NFL Draft pick that can step in and immediately contribute on special teams. He still has a lot to develop to his game, but the potential is there. If he’s given the time and space to develop, versus the expectation to contribute right away, I believe he can turn into a good WR at the NFL level. Otherwise, he may be heading down the path of a Josh Doctson, Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, etc. where they simply didn’t live up to expectations. Aiyuk has the talent, but there are still a lot of things that concern me when projecting him to the NFL. Aiyuk’s a late 3rd-round Dynasty draft pick for me currently, but his ADP has him much higher than that. I will most likely end up with zero shares of Aiyuk in Dynasty leagues.
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