Brandon Aiyuk is starting to become a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. That’s a big development for Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.
The 49ers front office understand that Jimmy Garoppolo needs to be surrounded by high-quality weapons in order to be successful. That’s why the organization spent a first round pick on Brandon Aiyuk this offseason. The talented rookie is steadily ascending to the role of becoming San Franciso’s No. 1 wide receiver.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of that development for San Francisco’s offense. Garoppolo is not a quarterback capable of elevating average talent around him. He simply doesn’t have the arm talent or exceptional mental acumen for the game required to buoy a struggling passing attack on his own.
Instead, he needs to be surrounded by playmakers to really produce at a high level. Before this season, the 49ers struggled to give him the sort of wide receiver talent he needed to be successful.
George Kittle covered up some of those deficiencies by his brilliant play at the tight end position, but San Francisco still struggled to come up with big plays at wide receiver. Deebo Samuel is an above-average No. 2 for the 49ers, but he isn’t the sort of vertical threat who strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators.
Aiyuk is just that sort of player. His college tape revealed him to be a little raw in terms of the intricacies of playing the position, but his size, speed, and ability to make contested catches down the field made him an intriguing talent for a myriad of NFL teams. The 49ers were forced to spend the No. 25 overall pick in the draft to make sure they secured his services.
His NFL career started off slowly, but by the time the team’s Week 7 matchup with the Patriots rolled around it was obvious that Aiyuk was starting to hit his stride. He torched the New England secondary for five catches for 112 yards on just six targets through the game’s first three quarters. His big-play ability helped get San Francisco off to a big lead in the high-profile matchup.
If Aiyuk can keep up that level of play, he drastically changes the ceiling for the 49ers. Instead of being a tough team to beat in the NFC, San Francisco could suddenly return to their previous role as the team to beat in the conference. That may seem like an overstatement for a team that just entered the Patriots game with a mediocre record of 3-3, but Kyle Shanahan’s team has the talent, experience, and coaching to regain their place atop the conference.
Aiyuk’s ascendancy to stardom could be just the spark the 49ers need to achieve that type of dominance.