San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk looked “pretty good” during the team’s first full-speed practice in preparation for the start of the 2020 season, but the coach was much more complimentary when asked to summarize Aiyuk’s progress since the team traded up to select him with the 25th overall pick.
“I’ve been real impressed with him, just being around him,” Shanahan told reporters on Saturday. “He was very impressive on the Zoom meetings, just his attention to detail. Since we’ve gotten here, just going through these walk-throughs and stuff, you can tell he knows how to practice like a pro. You can tell he comes prepared every day. He’s not a guy you have to teach how to act, or teach how important it is to learn this stuff. You can tell he understood that before he got here.
“Since we’ve been around him, you can tell he’s been working. That’s why he’s further ahead than, I think, other rookies at this time.”
Aiyuk, who underwent core muscle surgery earlier this year, enjoyed a breakout season for the Sun Devils in 2019, catching 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging a whopping 18.3 yards per catch. He was especially good during his final six games, catching 33 passes for 534 yards and three touchdowns during that span. That stretch of games does not include his seven-catch, 196-yard, three touchdown performance in the Sun Devils’ win over Washington State on Oct. 12.
During the combine, Aiyuk ran the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He also posted 11 reps in the bench press while posting a 40-inch vertical jump and a 128-inch broad jump.
While it’s hard to expect too much from a rookie (especially during this offseason, when rookies did not have the luxury of minicamp), Aiyuk may be called upon to be a significant contributor when the 49ers kick off the season against the Cardinals. With Deebo Samuel’s status for Week 1 up in the air, the 49ers recently signed veterans Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson to . The 49ers’ offense will also have to make up for the loss of veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the Saints during the offseason.
Aiyuk will look to gain a quick rapport with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who went 15-4 during his first season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. Speaking of Garoppolo, Shanahan told reporters not to look too deeply into the fact that Garoppolo was wearing his knee brace on Saturday after ditching it during previous workouts. Shanahan is also confident that Garoppolo will continue to make strides as he enters his fourth season with the 49ers.
“I think Jimmy had a great grasp of the offense last year,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo, who completed over 69% of his pass attempts last season. “I think he’ll have the same one this year. Hopefully, more experience and going through it more, you learn from your situations, and that usually makes you better.”