Brandon Aiyuk’s Dynasty Value is Set to Rise in 2021 (Fantasy Football)
This article will spotlight one of my favorite players to go after in dynasty leagues, Brandon Aiyuk. While his value has risen, he still may be an affordable trade target in your dynasty leagues. I believe that Aiyuk’s value will increase this season and launch him into a coveted dynasty asset. Some team managers are already there, but I still think there may be a window to buy now, which I will discuss later in this article. Before we get to that, let’s look into his rookie season and his outlook in dynasty.
2020 NFL Draft
Kyle Shanahan and the San Fransico 49ers wanted Brandon Aiyuk on draft night. Many analysts had the 49ers taking a wide receiver with their first of two 1st round draft picks. The 49ers were on the clock with pick number 14 with Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb available, but they opted to draft Javon Kinlaw to bolster their defense. The 49ers would then trade up from their pick at 31st overall to acquire the 25th pick in the draft to select Brandon Aiyuk.
The 49ers’ YouTube page has a video of Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch talking with Brandon Aiyuk where you can see the excitement for all parties involved. Kyle Shanahan mentioned to Aiyuk that he wanted him at pick 13 and that he was their guy. Luckily for the 49ers and Brandon Aiyuk, they could make that happen by trading up, which is always good for fantasy purposes. Knowing a team traded up and gave up additional draft capital to get “their guy” usually speaks to how highly they view them. Kyle Shanahan even joked about Aiyuk being “expensive” in the video.
Brandon Aiyuk was part of a tremendous rookie class of wide receivers that took the league by storm in 2020. Due to some great performances by these rookies last season, particularly Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb, Aiyuk is sometimes an afterthought. Aiyuk had 60 receptions for 748 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games as a rookie.
Brandon Aiyuk didn’t make his professional debut until Week 2 due to a hamstring strain that he suffered in training camp. He suffered the injury on August 23rd, just three weeks before the 49ers kicked off their NFL season. So not only did Aiyuk have a limited camp and no pre-season due to Covid-19, but he also had a hamstring injury to hold him back.
The 49ers had some rotation at the quarterback position in 2020 as Jimmy Garoppolo battled injuries and missed weeks 9-17 with an ankle injury. Nick Mullens was the primary starter post-injury, with C.J. Beathard filling in for a few games too. Despite some shaky quarterback play, Aiyuk was still able to perform at a high level.
2020 Fantasy Stats
Despite all of the challenges that Aiyuk faced as a rookie, he would have a great season. Aiyuk played 12 games in 2020 and finished as the WR35 in PPR. Despite finishing a low-end WR3, Aiyuk was the WR18 in points per game (15.4 PPR PPG). Aiyuk’s 15.4 PPR points per game are the 8th most ever for a rookie since 2000. I created a table to show how Aiyuk compares to the 7 players above him. It’s safe to say that Aiyuk is in excellent company for rookie year fantasy production.
Now let’s look at other historical stats for wide receivers, such as yards per game and catch rate, and see where Aiyuk compared to wide receivers in their rookie season since 2000. Aiyuk averaged 62.3 yards per game, which would be the 18th. He also had a catch rate of 62.5%, which would be 19th overall.
There has been some talk about how Brandon Aiyuk performed well because he was the primary beneficiary of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel missing games throughout the season. While that may be partly true, I believe it is somewhat misleading. Brandon Aiyuk has a ton of talent, and he wasn’t just a product of opportunity. I charted out each game that Aiyuk, Kittle, and Deebo played together below.
Looking at the chart, you will see it’s clear that George Kittle was the number 1 option in that offense in 2020, with almost double the targets in games played together. Keep in mind that the above chart was weeks 4-7 (4 games), and I say that because this was early in Aiyuk’s rookie season. I don’t expect the splits to be as heavily favored to Kittle moving forward in 2021 and on as Aiyuk progresses.
One other thing to note would be that Aiyuk had 1 less target than Deebo yet still outscored him in fantasy points, mainly because of how the 49ers utilized them in the offense. Per PlayerProfiler.com, Deebo had an aDOT of 2.6 yards (108th), and Aiyuk had an aDOT of 9 yards (72nd). Aiyuk will be utilized in many different ways, but Deebo will be primarily targeted at the line of scrimmage, relying on yards after the catch. The different roles that Aiyuk and Deebo have in the offense are why I am not worried about Deebo as a threat to Aiyuk’s ceiling.
While I am not saying that Brandon Aiyuk will be the number 1 option in the 49ers passing game in 2021, I will say that George Kittle has not played with a receiver as talented as Aiyuk is before. We haven’t seen what the 49ers’ offense will be like when they have a true stud wide receiver to pair with George Kittle. I think it’s entirely possible that as Aiyuk progresses over the next couple of years, we can see a situation where the 49ers support a top tight end and a potential top-12 wide receiver, similar to Kansas City. While the 49ers might not throw as much as Kansas City, they finished 16th in passing attempts in 2020, and I believe this offense will be efficient enough to support Kittle and Aiyuk.
Dynasty Value Going Forward
The 49ers selected quarterback Trey Lance with the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 draft. Trey Lance has been lighting it up in training camp, and there have been several videos going around on Twitter showing an oh-so-beautiful Lance to Aiyuk connection that should be a great quarterback to wide receiver duo for years and years to come. Kyle Shanahan has stated that Jimmy Garoppolo is still the starter, but many expect Lance to take over eventually. The good news is even Garoppolo is better than what Aiyuk had for half the season last year, but with Lance and his arm talent, that may take Aiyuk to an even higher level.
I posted a Twitter poll to see where dynasty managers value Brandon Aiyuk in dynasty wide receiver rankings. I wanted to get a good idea on how some in the community may have him ranked. Check out the poll below!
One more Brandon Aiyuk tweet! Where would you rank him in dynasty? @MyFantasyLeague
— Ryan DeVaney (@WhyDoIEvenTryFF) August 13, 2021
The poll I created had 217 votes, with a majority voting that Brandon Aiyuk was a top-15 or top-20 wide receiver. I had a feeling that the poll would turn out like this, with only a small percentage of votes going to Aiyuk being a top -30 dynasty receiver. I believe that if I were to post this poll after the 2021 season, there would be next to no votes for the top-25 or top-30 and will be considered a consensus top 12-15 wide receiver in dynasty formats.
Is There Still a Buy Window?
I took to Twitter to see if there had been any recent trades for Brandon Aiyuk in dynasty leagues. While it’s clear that many owners value Aiyuk relatively highly, there still seems to be somewhat of a buy window. The concern of Kittle and Deebo is real, and that may be a factor in some dynasty managers trading Aiyuk away below market value. I saw multiple trades where dynasty managers received Aiyuk for a 2022 1st round draft pick and another player or lower pick. I also saw trades that sent away an older stud wide receiver to get Aiyuk and high draft picks. I would give away a future first for this proven young wide receiver in a heartbeat. If you can get that deal done for Aiyuk, I would be ecstatic, especially considering Aiyuk is a player I am willing to buy high on.
I think Brandon Aiyuk has superstar potential. He has a great coach, is in an efficient and high-scoring offense, and may have a potential star at quarterback for years to come. His value is only going to rise, and that is why I believe you should buy in now if you can.