PatriotMaven Scouting Profile: Brandon Aiyuk

Max McAuliffe

I have talked with several people who are really high on former Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk. He will likely be a second round pick and it seems unlikely he sees any first round consideration at the moment, yet he is getting more love than last year's first round pick, N'Keal Harry.

That's right - the New England Patriots' first round selection and former teammate of Aiyuk was drafted higher, but may have a dimmer future. 

One source that has worked with both Aiyuk and Harry told PatriotMaven that they like Aiyuk a lot more, stating that "Harry is going to be good, but Aiyuk is going to be something special." 

Apparently, NFL scouts are right in line with what the source is saying. Jim Nagy said something similar during the Senior Bowl. 

When comparing the two, it makes sense. They are both very good after the catch, but Aiyuk has the edge against Harry when it comes to fundamentals and creating separation. Aiyuk is a smarter route-runner and he fills gaps where Harry really lacked last season. 

Let's take a further dive at what makes Aiyuk better than last year's first round pick:

Hands/tracking

- Aiyuk makes body catches and concentration drops multiple times on the film. His hands might actually be one of the bigger worries, besides some smaller nuances in his route-running. Hands are a lot harder to fix at this stage than smaller route-running nuances. This is not to say Aiyuk's hands are "bad", per say. What it does say is he is not a clean catcher, which impacts the level of confidence the quarterback has in him. Confidence is a key component to building chemistry with Tom Brady. 

Speed and athleticism

- Aiyuk is not as fast as Henry Ruggs, Jalen Reagor, or KJ Hamler. However, he might fall into the same boat as last week's draft prospect, Quartney Davis. Aiyuk's 40-yard dash should be around the low 4.4's. 

- His 4.4 speed, athletic tools, explosiveness, and his incredible ability to rack up yards has translated to a staggering 13.4 yards after the catch, per Sports Info Solutions. That means he averaged 17.0 yards per catch in college. 

- His speed and ability in the open-field allowed him to also excel at returning punts in college. With Mohamed Sanu getting injured on a punt return last year and punt return specialist, Gunner Olszewski not being a lock to make the roster, Aiyuk could take over that duty. 

Size

- Aiyuk is a hair bulkier than the last two prospects we have evaluated. He weighs in at 203 pounds. He is also a flat six feet tall. For some reason, Aiyuk appears bigger on camera than that measure. 

Route-running and separation

- A lot of scouts disagree here. Some hype his route-running ability, and some are a lot lower than others. One thing they all agree on is that he runs better routes than N'Keal Harry. 

- While Aiyuk may not be more physical than Harry, which limits his ability to fight off tight press coverage, he has much better technique and understands the fundamentals a lot more. 

- Aiyuk demonstrated time and time again his outstanding ability to stack his corner and get by him. He veers off his landmarks and gets right back to them. He beats corners tight on him by using squeezes, leans, running up on their toes, and keeping his routes vertical. All these things are nuances that Harry really struggles with, which prevent him from getting consistent separation. 

- Aiyuk's route tree is extremely well-rounded and when he fakes other routes, his footwork can leave defenders running in the opposite direction. 

- The big knock on him is his hand usage, like mentioned above. That is an aspect that needs to improve to be successful. He finds plenty of separation with this feet and they allow him to operate through his routes at a very high level. 

Smarts and awareness

- Our source also labeled Aiyuk as a strong learner, which opens up the room for growth. Aiyuk sees the field really well and has a real strong grasp of his technique and fundamentals. There are no worries in this department. 

Physicality

- His hands also limit his ability here. Despite his toughness and his ability to fight through contact, his hands prevent him from really doing much in tight man situations. He relies on his jump off the line of scrimmage to beat more physical corners which does not always work. In the NFL, that works even less of the time. To really become a special receiver in the league, his physicality will need to get better. 

Blocking

- He is not the strongest run blocker. However, the effort is there and he has a strong foundation. Some focus on better blocking technique will improve his skills here, along with some work on those hands that continue to get mentioned. However, Aiyuk is a willing blocker for sure. 

Production

His production shot up once Harry left for New England. Until then, his statistics were rather mediocre. However, much like Ruggs, the real encouraging stat is his yards per catch and yards after the catch. 

Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 12.34.40 PM
Brandon Aiyuk's stats, per Sports Reference

Aiyuk is a JUCO prospect, so he only had two seasons at Arizona State. This is another piece that could hinder his value, with only two years playing at this college level. 

Film

rac
Aiyuk flashes his ability with the ball in his hands here. He shows his breakaway speed and once he catches the screen, turns into a punt returner, taking this all the way, to the house. 
sell fade
Watch Aiyuk at the bottom of the screen as he does a tremendous job of selling the fade. Then, cuts inside and catches the ball cleanly off the slant. 
Stack
It would be a crime to not throw Aiyuk's vertical ability in here. To be able to blow past a corner giving a 10 yard cushion like that is something special. 

Fit

With great short area quickness, explosiveness, and ability to separate, Aiyuk could immediately be plugged into a slot receiver role. With the sole job of getting open to the weak spot of the defense, catching, and going, his yards after the catch ability could provide a much needed spark to the Patriots' offense. 

He will be able to run slant routes and bubble screens, much like Josh Gordon did for the team. He will blossom in that role and quickly start to grow and mold into a top target on the depth chart. 

New England would likely have to trade back into the first round to get him, which is something that makes a lot of sense to do this year unless Ruggs or Javon Kinlaw are there when they pick at no. 23. Head coach Bill Belichick loves trading back , so don't rule it out of the equation. 

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