Another San Francisco 49ers wide receiver is injured, which further lines up Brandon Aiyuk to be the No. 1 guy.
The San Francisco 49ers liked Brandon Aiyuk enough to trade up for him in April’s draft, so he was in line to earn a prominent role even in a challenging offseason for rookies. Then Deebo Samuel suffered a foot injury in June, which is in line to cost him somewhere around the first month of the season.
Jalen Hurd was easily bumped up the depth chart in the wake of Samuel’s injury. He missed his entire rookie season in 2019 due to a back injury, but his potential is intriguing as a college running back turned wide receiver still learning the nuances of the position. Then Monday’s practice came, and Hurd went down with an injury.
Hurd is obviously out for the season if he suffered a torn ACL, and Samuel’s injury invites an lengthier absence than might be expected right now. So Brandon Aiyuk has become something of a last-man standing, as the 49ers add depth (Tavon Austin, J.J. Nelson).
Brandon Aiyuk is 49ers’ No. 1 wide receiver until further notice
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan called Aiyuk his favorite receiver in the 2020 draft class. More recently, via NBC Sports Bay Area, Shanahan continued to heap praise on Aiyuk.
“Since we’ve gotten here, going through these walk-throughs, he knows how to practice like a pro,” Shanahan said. “You can tell he comes prepared every day…“Since we’ve been around him, you can tell he’s been working. That’s why he’s further ahead than a lot of rookies would be at this time.”
Tight end George Kittle is the top target in the 49ers’ passing game. If the season started next Sunday, Aiyuk would be the clear No. 1 wide receiver in terms of snaps and targets, followed by Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and some combination of (say three or four of) Austin, Nelson, Dante Pettis, Jauan Jennings and Richie James.
Aiyuk had a good opportunity in front of him anyway. Now, with injuries thinning the 49ers receiver depth chart, the opportunity will grow as he becomes the team’s clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver — at least until Samuel is back, and possibly after.