This year’s NFL Draft class is loaded with tons of talented wide receivers, many of whom are likely to be taken in the first round.
Players like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III have generated much of the attention, but there are also some under-the-radar receivers who could still be key additions.
One of those players is Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who made the bold comparison of himself to Odell Beckham Jr. at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
Who is Brandon Aiyuk?
First, his name — it is pronounced EYE-yook, although he earned the nickname Ai-YAC because of his ability to pick up yards after the catch. Per PFF, Aiyuk led all receivers in the 2020 draft class with an average of 9.9 yards after catch.
He stands at 6-foot-1, 205-pounds and ran a 4.5 40 at the combine, which came as a bit of a disappointment, but his tape shows he can play faster as a deep ball threat and he was coming off a hip injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl in January.
Aiyuk finished his senior season at Arizona State as the team’s leading receiver with 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a special teams threat, too, leading the Pac-12 in kickoff and punt yards per return. He was voted Third-Team AP All-American and First-Team All-Pac-12.
Why He Compares to OBJ:
“I make things happen after the catch, just like Odell when he was coming out of college,” Aiyuk said. “He was an all-purpose guy: receiving, rushing, returning punts, returning kicks — I feel like we’re the same type of player entering the draft.”
In addition to the skills on the field that are similar to Beckham, Aiyuk is also close to the same size as the Cleveland Browns receiver. Beckham stands at six feet tall, and entered the draft weighing in at 198 pounds.
Beckham's NFL.com draft profile projected him as a No. 3 slot receiver with value as a kick returner while lauding his ability to make plays after the catch, but is often out-muscled and inconsistent with contested grabs.
Aiyuk's NFL.com draft profile also categorizes his potential as a No. 3 receiver whose biggest strength is to create yards after the catch and weaknesses include the need for more physicality when contested. Sound familiar?
Where Will He Land?
Aiyuk has been projected mostly as a second-round pick, with some mocks having him as high as a late first-rounder or as low as an early third-rounder.
Potential Landing Spots: Jets, Eagles, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Texans
Pretty much any team that needs a wide receiver. There are certainly plenty that will be looking to add one. The Jets hold the 11th overall pick in the draft and desperately need a receiver after losing Robby Anderson. They could easily have someone like Lamb or Riggs fall into their laps, but they could also choose to address another need, such as the offensive line, in the first round and wait until the second round to take a wide receiver, where Aiyuk could be available.
The Patriots are still in need of some receiving help, despite drafting Aiyuk’s Arizona State teammate, N’Keal Harry, in the first-round last year. It’s hard to imagine they’d go receiver in the first round again, but without a second-round pick they may give him a hard look with the 23rd overall pick.
The Eagles (21, 53) need help behind the oft-injured DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery and will likely eye a receiver in the first or second round. Even if both are healthy, Aiyuk can slide into the slot.
The Texans were not a team thought to be in need of a receiver just a few weeks ago, but with the shocking trade of DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, Houston now has two second-round picks (40 and 57) and could very likely use one of them on a receiver like Aiyuk.
Meanwhile, teams like the Saints (24) and Packers (30, 62) are looking for a No. 2 receiver to complement the top targets Michael Thomas and Davante Adams.