Brandon Aiyuk was drafted with pick No. 25 in 2020.
The 49ers traded up to get their highly coveted and needed wide receiver prospect. They sent the Vikings picks No. 31, 117 and 176. Which means four draft picks were essentially spent on acquiring Aiyuk.
But if you just looked at what has transpired this 2021 season, you would think Aiyuk was a sixth-round pick. Aiyuk is being heavily underutilized. You would think using a player like Aiyuk would be beneficial in a season where the 49ers offense has been moving at a snail's pace in the first-half. Yet Kyle Shanahan refuses to use Aiyuk over some petty reasoning.
Underutilizing Aiyuk is inexcusable for Shanahan.
There is absolutely ZERO reason to treat Aiyuk like he is just some Day 3 draft pick. Aiyuk is being treated like a regular rotation receiver and it is clear he is at the bottom of Shanahan's favoritism ladder. Mohamed Sanu has more catches and targets than him. That is simply unacceptable. This all falls at the feet of Shanahan and his constant placement of young players in his "doghouse" that he does every year.
The one game that Aiyuk actually looked solid in was against the Packers. It looked as if the 49ers finally decided to incorporate him in the offense. However, it turns out it was just a coincidence and the 49ers never had any plans to run him that heavily.
"[WR Brandon] Aiyuk had earned more reps to get back," said Shanahan. "But we weren't trying to make it so lopsided versus Green Bay, just the game played out a little different. But it was a little more realistic or a little more what was expected last night.”
Then the offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, doubled down on Shanahan's statement that Aiyuk was never supposed to be used so much.
"I don't think any of us were foreseeing the ratio of reps going as extreme as it did," McDaniel said. "Again, that's game circumstance, part of the residuals of a choppy start or not sustaining drives is you don't get into a routine that [wide receivers coach] Wes [Welker] is used to where you can sub people in and out. So, you get these shorter drives so it just kind of happened that way. But I wouldn't expect that to happen in the future."
McDaniel doesn't expect Aiyuk to be featured like that again?
What are these coaches doing?
Trent Sherfield? Mohamed Sanu? Even Travis Benjamin was involved out of nowhere against the Cardinals after being elevated from the practice squad the day before. This is ludicrous. Shanahan is deliberately limiting his offense to prove a point. It is absolutely insane to see. Whatever it is that he isn't seeing from Aiyuk cannot be enough justification to purposely limit the offense. Unless Aiyuk is just being disrespectful or unprofessional in practice that is almost toxic, then there is no reason to cap his abilities.
Here is a crazy statistic to look at courtesy of Josh Dubow of The Associated Press.
Credibility as an "offensive genius" has taken a massive hit with Shanahan. His play calling is out of rhythm and it is not surprising why when he continually rotates his guys in as if he can just make magic happen on his own. That is some serious arrogance about his own ability as a play caller. And in a game where Trey Lance was without George Kittle, that is one where Aiyuk should have been utilized more. There needs to be a concerted effort here to make him a part of the game plan.
Get the ball into your best players' hands, Shanahan. He was a first-round pick. It is time to start relying more on the young talent because all of these older and one-year deal players are not sustainable for success. Getting Aiyuk involved will lead to success. His rookie season when he performed at a high-level with a revolving door at quarterback is not a fluke. If anything, it is Shanahan who is the real fluke here after one incredible 2019 season. The way he conducts himself with his "doghouse" players is getting really old, especially when the offense is porous.
Play Aiyuk more. The offense needs him, not pettiness or stubbornness from the coach.