This is where Brandon Aiyuk comes in. Aiyuk is the No. 2 wide receiver in San Francisco, coming off a strong second half of an up-and-down sophomore year in the league. Once Aiyuk took off, the 49ers started winning games and made a deep postseason run.
The sky’s the limit for Aiyuk in Year 3, a season which 49ers general manager John Lynch has high expectations for the former first-round pick.
“I don’t know if anyone’s worked harder this offseason,” Lynch said on KNBR’s “Tolbert & Copes” podcast this week. “You talk about a kid who has made a giant leap and some guys you hope that this is his year.
“I know it’s going to be Brandon’s year because of the work he’s put in and because, you know, when a guy is just doing it every day, that translates to the field, and it translates to game time.”
Aiyuk has been the ideal complement to Deebo Samuel over the course of his young career, but he’s shown signs of becoming a No. 1 wide receiver himself. He finished with 56 catches for 826 yards and five touchdowns last season, even though 730 of those receiving yards came from Week 8 onward. Aiyuk was 10th in the NFL in receiving yards since Week 8 and 11th in yards per catch (15.53). His 10.74 yards per target average was fifth in the NFL in that span.
In Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse in the early part of last season, Aiyuk is far from that player. The 49ers know Aiyuk’s potential — and they feel he’s going to reach it with Lance in 2022.
“He hung out with his quarterback all offseason. So their chemistry is incredible right now,” Lynch said. “And it’s going to be fun to watch that come into fruition as we start this season.”