Name: Brandon Aiyuk
Position: Wide Receiver
Size: 6’1, 206 lbs.
Experts Say: Mid to Late First Round or Early Day 2
What We Know: Stop and think about this. Remember how much the Sun Devil faithful loved their golden child N’Keal Harry (and rightfully so) for his spectacular playmaking abilities over the course of three years? He was drafted 32nd overall. Yet one eye-popping season is going to likely propel a former junior college transfer, who was fairly quiet during most of his first season in Tempe, to be selected even higher. That’s how explosive Aiyuk can be when an offense gets him involved.
Aiyuk was a bit of an afterthought in the Arizona State offense for a good portion of 2018. Through 10 of his first 11 outings, he didn’t haul in more than three balls in a game, including each of his first eight. He had just one touchdown in that time frame. A lot of that was revolved around the fact that he wasn’t receiving a very high target share.
But after a 100-yard performance in last year’s Territorial Cup and hauling in nine catches during the Las Vegas Bowl (in which Harry sat out), he started to display what he possesses as a go-to option. It carried over and then some in 2019, earning first team All-Pac-12 honors after snagging 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Aiyuk is certainly fast and has great athleticism, evident from his 4.5 40-yard dash and 40-inch vertical at the NFL combine. But what gives him a “wow” factor is what he does once the ball is in his hands. The senior averaged a whopping 10.9 yards after the catch in 2019, which led the nation in that regard (the average YAC among Power-5 wide receivers this past season was 5.5). He averaged 18.3 yards per catch, consistently showing his ability to turn on the jetpack and simply outrun defenders. For reference, Henry Ruggs III, who amazed everyone with his raw 4.27 speed and ability to obliterate defensive backfields on go routes, averaged 18.7 yards per catch in 2019. He’s also an effective return man, adding another weapon to his arsenal.
Prediction: After the big three wide receivers are off the board fairly early (Ruggs, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy), there will be a handful of clubs in the later part of the first round that have the positional need and will be looking to select from a pool of arguably the most loaded receiver class in the history of the NFL Draft. Teams such as the Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Dolphins all seem like very plausible landing spots for Aiyuk in the first round.