POST-GAME UPDATE: It sounds like Aiyuk’s preseason hamstring injury was at least a partial factor in his limited Week 1 playing time.
UPDATE: It appears Trent Sherfield has moved ahead of Brandon Aiyuk on the 49ers wide receiver depth chart. There had been preseason buzz around Sherfield, but given the big plays Aiyuk provided last season, this is still a surprise. Aiyuk made his first appearance in the second quarter, but has not been targeted and is getting limited snaps.
The San Francisco 49ers have a type at wide receiver, and no one exemplifies that preference better than 2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk. The wideout, who has the build of a running back and boasts elite athleticism, had an impressive rookie campaign despite injuries depleting the offense around him. Now, in Year 2 of his NFL career, Aiyuk has positioned himself to make the leap.
Fantasy football analysis: 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk
Though Aiyuk did not garner the same attention last year as fellow rookies Justin Jefferson and Chase Claypool, the 49ers wideout had a comparably impressive season in context. San Francisco spent the vast majority of the season without its starting quarterback, yet Aiyuk consistently performed after moving into the starting lineup, hauling in 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns (he added another two scores as a rusher). That production suggests bigger days ahead for the 23-year-old pass catcher.
Now, with Jimmy Garoppolo healthy and No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance waiting in the wings, the ceiling for the 49ers’ passing game looks higher than at any time during the Kyle Shanahan era.
As for Week 1, Aiyuk will share targets with fellow wideout-tailback hybrid Deebo Samuel and, of course, All-Pro tight end George Kittle. While Kittle will serve as the centerpiece of the 49ers offense, Aiyuk will likely lead the team in targets. Given his ability to create after the catch and a porous Detroit Lions defense on the other side, Aiyuk should start 2021 with a nice performance.
Fantasy start/sit recommendation
Start Brandon Aiyuk as a WR2.