Make Up or Break Up: Brandon Aiyuk (Fantasy Football)
Dear Brandon Aiyuk,
I spent a lot of time last off-season hyping you up, especially in dynasty, where I shared my thoughts on how your dynasty value would drastically rise in 2021. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and instead, my heart was broken.
Weeks 1-7 were the most challenging part for me to take, and I was confused and lost while endlessly searching for answers to find out what was really going on in San Francisco. Was Kyle Shanahan just playing games, or were you just not where you needed to be as a second-year player to produce on Sundays? I found it hard to believe that it could be the latter because of the talent you flashed during your rookie campaign.
Eventually, we got some answers, and you were finally released from Shanahan’s doghouse. Whatever words were shared by both of you during your meeting paid off because you had a lot more playing time and production post-meeting.
During the dreaded span of Weeks 1-7, you were the wide receiver 95 on the season in fantasy scoring in half-point PPR formats. After spending a mid-round pick on you, fantasy managers like myself were devastated by the lack of playing time and production. We had to watch other random wide receivers on the 49ers line up out wide where you belonged. In Weeks 1-7, you only had one game where you played in more than 71% of the snaps, leading to only receiving 8.3% of the team’s targets during that stretch. We knew that you would have competition for targets between Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, but we didn’t expect Trent Sherfield or Mohamed Sanu to get more looks than you. Stuff like this is why I name all my fantasy teams “Why Do I Even Try.” All that research in the off-season just to have Kyle Shenanigans take you off the field for two players that will help nobody in fantasy football.
Luckily, Weeks 8-18 were a much different story for you. During that time, the lowest snap percentage you had was 88% in Week 8, and that would be the only game that you had under a 90% snap percentage for the rest of the season (11 games). Your production spiked as a result, which wasn’t a surprise because we know the talent is there. In Weeks 8-18, you received 21.2% of the team’s targets and were 9th in the NFL in receiving yards during that stretch (WR20 in yards per game). You also were the fantasy WR21 in points per game among wide receivers with five or more games played and were more consistent in scoring fantasy points, scoring at least 11 points in half-point PPR formats in 7-of-11 games.
You averaged 6.2 targets per game during Weeks 8-18, slightly higher than Deebo Samuel (5.8) and near George Kittle (6.6). It was good to see you be a significant part of the offense again. I know that you may not always average more targets per game than Deebo, but it was good to see that you all could co-exist and be productive together.
We know that Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the team as of writing this letter, but it looks like the 49ers will hand over the keys for the franchise to Trey Lance in 2022. Shanahan hasn’t fully committed to this, but we assume the transition will occur. It would be nice to see Lance taking snaps and using his big arm to get you the ball for fantasy purposes. You both seemed to have great chemistry during the off-season, and with another off-season coming up, that should only improve. I see so much upside for you with Lance at the quarterback position, and I want to see this through since we didn’t get to see you two play together much last year.
It’s really early, but taking a look at your ADP on FantasyFootballCalculator.com has me interested. It seems that you are being drafted in the middle of the sixth round as the WR28. My hopes and dreams of you being a top-12 wide receiver are almost non-existent, but if you tell me I may be able to snag you that late, I think the value will be there. You are a top-24 receiver when you are on the field and have the upside to finish in the top 15-to-20 range in 2022.
Brandon, to wrap this up, I love your talent, and you are one of my favorite players in the NFL. The back half of the 2021 season proves that you have what it takes to be a solid fantasy football asset. I tend to bet on talent, even if this situation is challenging because of your head coach, Kyle Shenanigans, and his mysterious ways. As long as your ADP makes sense in August, I will draft you on my fantasy teams again, but I beg you to stay out of Shanahan’s doghouse. I am ready to be hurt again, but I am optimistic that we can make this work. I want to see a third-year breakout so badly. Let’s give this one more chance. Let’s go win together in 2022!