2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
No matter how far down the list you go for wide receivers in this class, you will find someone to like. There will be day three wide receivers who project well in statistical models and undrafted free agents who film watchers have been drooling over. Brandon Aiyuk is yet another solid profile, late-bloomer (very similar to Michael Pittman) in the 2020 draft class. As with all prospects who are not early-declares, Aiyuk is going to be a bit contentious because of the mixed history of over-aged prospects.
Brandon Aiyuk 2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Aiyuk took a rather circuitous path to the NFL draft as he was extremely lightly recruited out of high school and ended up playing two seasons at Sierra College which is a junior college. He racked up 2,499 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns with 89 receptions. This does raise sort of an interesting question about prospecting. Should Aiyuk be given an “early breakout age” in statistical models because he crushed it as a receiver and kick/punt returner at a junior college? I would err on the side of saying probably not because the level of competition is just so poor but I wouldn’t think it is outright incorrect to do so.
After leaving Sierra College, Aiyuk was much more heavily recruited and ultimately chose to attend Arizona State mostly because of the extreme confidence head coach Herm Edwards showed in him.
“Herm, he saw something in me from the first day I got on campus,” Aiyuk said. “He used to tell the defense, ‘That guy is going to play in the NFL.’ I’m a junior college guy who has been at the university for one week, and I’ve got DBs telling me, ‘Herm said you were going to play in the NFL.’ That was huge for my confidence.”
Aiyuk mostly played second and third fiddle to N’Keal Harry in his first year at ASU with only 33 receptions for 474 yards and three receiving touchdowns, though to be fair that did account for 20.5% of Arizona State’s passing volume. There is also the “talented teammate” corollary, as playing with a future first-round WR is very likely going to depress volume for other teammates, and one could reason especially for JuCo transfers.
Aiyuk did not have much of a problem transitioning to being a WR1 for Arizona State. He leapfrogged Kyle Williams in his age 21 season and caught 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns while racking up a 39% dominator rating. In some of Arizona State’s games, Aiyuk had 5-64 against Michigan State, 7-196-3 against Washington State and 7-161-1 against Oregon but only 1-7 against Utah.
Aiyuk also racked up a hair over 1,000 total kick + punt return yards and scored a punt return touchdown against Oregon State in his final season at Arizona State. Simply from a production profile, his final season is really solid. Dominating the Pac-12 at the age of 21 is basically what N’Keal Harry did but Harry was an early declare.
Projecting Brandon Aiyuk In The 2020 NFL Draft
What do you do with a prospect who limits their sample by attending junior college? Well, first, it is helpful to realize that playing at a JuCo doesn’t rule out a prospect from being great. Dallas’ Michael Gallup dominated at Butler Community College before blowing up at Colorado State and while Cordarelle Patterson didn’t even become Randy Moss, he has sustained an NFL career after attending Hutchinson Community College.
I am not supremely confident that Aiyuk is going to be a second or third round pick so I plugged in a draft equity spot of 100 in the Rotoviz Box Score Scout app to generate this comp list.
Not the best, not the worst. Cooper, Diggs, Allen, Bennett, Smith and Reynolds were all varying degrees of useful in the NFL and of course, Aiyuk’s Sim Scores get way better when his draft equity increases. For my perspective, I am inclined to want Aiyuk to complete the rest of his drills at Arizona State’s pro day for historical comparison purposes but view him generally favorable as a prospect. It is likely he will be drafted to play right away which helps for future dynasty trade value and puts him in a more favorable bucket of prospects from the get go.
The Draft Network provides a quick summary of the film grade for Aiyuk as: “Brandon Aiyuk is a dynamic receiving prospect who possesses an exciting ceiling at the NFL level. Thriving in vertical routes and in run after catch scenarios, Aiyuk is a height/weight/speed mismatch who showcases splendid short-area quickness, explosiveness and ability to stress coverage vertically. He’ll need to hone is releases versus physical press coverage but in the meantime, Aiyuk could find immediate success in the slot while honing boundary skills.
Given the depth of talent in this class, there is no way Aiyuk will go as a first-round draft selection in the NFL draft or dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts but he is a value target in the early/mid second round in rookie drafts.