After a breakout season at Arizona State, Brandon Aiyuk received a lot of buzz early in the pre-draft process, and for good reason. His speed makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Will he sneak his way into the first round, or will the Bengals be able to snag him with the 33rd overall pick.
Pros: Aiyuk’s No. 1 attribute is speed. He has the burners to threaten the defense deep and make them pay for playing man coverage on him with no help over the top.
In addition, he is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands. His ability to RAC-up yards (run after catch) sets him apart. It is not only his speed, but his vision that makes him dangerous with the ball in his hands. Not surprisingly he also returned kicks and punts for the Sun Devils.
Cons: His hands are okay, but he has some issues here. His hand-eye reaction when the ball comes quickly and he is just coming out of the break has caused him some problems.
Aiyuk also tends to wait for the ball to come to him rather than attacking it and is not going to win many contested balls. He is not a very physical player and struggles with press and bump-and-run coverages.
Red Flags: none
NFL Comp: Golden Tate
Bengals Fit: With the injury issues John Ross has had throughout his career, the Bengals may not exercise his fifth-year option. Aiyuk has the speed and play-making ability to fill Ross’ role in the offense and would probably require a year to prepare to take over the role full-time.
Draftability: Aiyuk should be available at 33, but last year most people would have said that about his teammate N’Keal Harry. Harry went to the New England Patriots at the end of first round and Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy has stated that scouts had Aiyuk “graded equal or higher than” Harry.
With the amount of talent at the wide receiver position in this year’s draft, many decisions could come down to fit and preference. It’s conceivable that he could make it to 65, but that would be a worst case scenario for him.
Jim Nagy on Brandon Aiyuk: ”He’s a 1st round pick. Everyone who I’ve talked to has him graded equal or higher than N’Keal Harry last year”— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) January 20, 2020
Summary: Aiyuk is a JUCO transfer who only had one full offseason at Arizona State. This has likely hindered his development as coaches did not have time to work on the nuance of his game and instead had to focus on getting him ready for Saturday.
This speaks positively well for his ceiling, but is poorly of his likelihood of contributing in a major way in year one. Regardless, he’s a big-play receiver whose presence on the field must be accounted for.