SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Predicting Breakout Players for the 49ers 2022 Season: Brandon Aiyuk

Sep 5, 2022, 7:30 AM

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 2: Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs after making a catch...

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 2: Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs after making a catch during the game against the Houston Texans at Levi's Stadium on January 2, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Texans 23-7. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

Football season is upon us Sacramento as the regular season gets underway in less than a week, Sept. 8th between the Buffalo Bills and defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

After that the remaining 30 teams begin their season on Sunday and Monday, with the San Francisco 49ers being a part of the former. The Red & Gold open their 2022 campaign on the road against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 11th at Soldier Field.

Coming off last season’s NFC championship appearance, the 49ers are looking to make another deep run in the playoffs, still looking for the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl trophy. They’ll have to do it behind the play of second-year phenom Trey Lance, stepping in to his first starting role in the NFL. He won’t be alone however, as head coach Kyle Shanahan and the front office have blessed the 22-year-old QB with a plethora or offensive and defensive weapons to lean on in 2o22.

From Gorege Kittle to Fred Warner, the 49ers are stacked across the board with talent. Nevertheless, there is always a few players that come out of the blue and have massive production for their respective teams each year. Last year it was running back Elijah Mitchell, amassing 1,100 yards from scrimmage and six TDs in only eleven games due to injury.

But who will be the breakout player on offense for the Bay Area squad this season?

The answer: Third-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The Case For BA

No one is more prepared for the start of the regular season than third-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The former Arizona State Sun Devil and Rocklin native has been setting the field on fire throughout training camp, dazzling with his quick feet and Velcro-like hands.

If you’ve been following our coverage of the 49ers throughout training camp this shouldn’t come as a surprise, Aiyuk has been the best performer in practice, winning almost all of his 1-on-1 routes against teammates and opposition.

When the team traveled to Minnesota for joint practices with the Vikings during week 2 of the preseason, BA made it known that his time was better spent back in Santa Clara.

“Eh, it was good work. Going against somebody different. Different environment. I ain’t like it too much. I felt like it was a waste of time, personally. It was boring for sure” the third-year wideout said in Minnesota.

A bold statement for sure but one that is warranted for a player almost everyone sees having a massive breakout in 2022, including the G.O.A.T, Jerry Rice, himself.

“I think that the guy that’s really, really gonna have a breakout year is Brandon Aiyuk,” Rice said Monday on  95.7 The Game’s The Morning Roast.

“Because with all of that single coverage and all of that attention going on George Kittle, too, this guy he’s gotta blossom this year. If he does that, it’s gonna take some of the pressure off Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.”

Quite a vote of confidence from the hall-of-famer, especially for a player in the same position he once played in San Francisco.

The praise doesn’t stop there though, as Aiyuk’s ascension not only on the field, but off the field, has been a welcoming sight for the coaching staff over the offseason.

“He’s so much more ready to go at this time compared to last year. The way he finished last year is where he picked up this offseason,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said on KNBR recently. “I consider him one of the leaders of our team right now.”

“You talk about a kid who has made a giant leap and some guys you hope that this is his year,” general manager John Lynch said, via NBCSportsBayArea.com. “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.”

The work Lynch is talking about isn’t necessarily related to his camp performance, but more so elated to the work without the cameras around him. The Rocklin native spent a significant portion of the offseason down in Southern California with first-year starting quarterback Trey Lance, working on their timing prior to the upcoming season.

It seems like that time together paid dividends, becoming Lance’s favorite target throughout training camp, and an electrifying 1B to Deebo Samuel’s 1A in this offense.

“Aiyuk, he was roommates with Trey Lance this offseason,” The Athletic’s David Lombardi said on The Pat McAfee Show last Wednesday. “And you can tell that he’s got that rapport with Trey. Look back to where Deebo Samuel was last year. A lot of talk about him and the great training camp he had and then he parlayed that into a superstar 2021 season…he’ll be in line to get paid if he has a big year and he’s looked awesome in training camp for the 49ers.

From being in the supposed doghouse a year ago, to being one of the leaders of the team. Quite a leap for the former JUCO player out of Sierra College, in line to have a massive third year in the NFL.

2021 stats: 56 receptions, 826 yards, five TDs

2022 Projection: 70 receptions, 1100 yards, eight TDs

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