Saints Draft Prospect: WR Brandon Aiyuk
The New Orleans Saints took care of a big offseason need when they signed free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders two weeks ago. Sanders gives quarterback Drew Brees another bonafide threat at the receiver position to go along with their record-breaking All-Pro Michael Thomas. The acquisition will not only improve the prolific Saints offense but also give the team some flexibility with their draft options now that their biggest need has been filled. New Orleans may still want to add wideout depth in the upcoming draft, a position that is deep in talent well past the first round.
Today’s draft profile looks at an electric gamebreaker protected as a late first or early second-round pick.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR (Arizona State) 6’0 205-Lbs.
Aiyuk attended Sierra College for his first two collegiate seasons after starring at McQueen High School in Reno, NV. He transferred to Arizona State for his final two years, where he would play for longtime NFL head coach Herm Edwards. Aiyuk was the primary kick returner for the Sun Devils in 2018 and caught 33 passes for 474 yards and three scores as a reserve receiver. He exploded into prominence as a senior last season, pulling in 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and 8 touchdowns while also being one of the nation’s most dynamic kick and punt returners. Aiyuk earned 1st team All-PAC 12 honors and third team All-American recognition as a senior.
NFL Scouting Combine Statistics
- 40-Yd dash = 4.5
- Vertical jump = 40” (5th among wideouts)
- Broad jump = 128” (5th among wideouts)
NFL.com comparison (via Lance Zierlein) = Robert Woods (Rams)
Arizona State often used Aiyuk in space, so he is inexperienced as a route runner. He will need to polish his patterns and extend his route tree to be a more effective receiver at the next level. Aiyuk struggles against physical defensive backs and has a tough time releasing from aggressive press coverage. Despite his gamebreaking ability, he doesn’t have blazing speed downfield and will have to gain separation through sharper routes. He doesn’t hesitate to go over the middle but must have better concentration in traffic.
Aiyuk is a nightmare for opposing defenses once the ball is in his hands. He has excellent vision and instincts in the open field and transitions into a runner quickly after securing the catch. Aiyuk has terrific agility to make tacklers miss, often turning a quick pass into extra yardage against off coverage or zones. Although limited as a route runner at this stage, he explodes out of breaks to give his quarterback an immediate target. He shows good concentration down the field on deep throws, but is most effective on shorter routes with the ball in his hands in the open field.
Brandon Aiyuk had core muscle surgery on Tuesday, as first reported by Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network. This was a lingering injury for Aiyuk that forced him to miss the Senior Bowl and limited his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He is expected to make a full recovery but cannot take part in football activities until training camp. According to ESPN draft evaluator Mike Detillier, injury situations like Aiyuk’s or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault will affect their draft status even more so than in other years because of the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Detillier: “More than any other year the medical Staff will have a huge influence on those early round picks. Doctors/ trainers all have influence every year . but not being able to bring those players in makes me firmly believe that teams will be more conservative with those early picks with guys like Shenault, Aiyuk, Delpit, etc.. Especially Shenault because it’s numerous injuries . NFL folks are conservative to begin with. This will make them more conservative.”
The surgery may drop Aiyuk on some draft boards, but he is still a dynamic open field playmaker with a high upside as a receiver. Brandon Aiyuk is a first-round talent that may slide down because of injury concerns and the inability to work out for NFL teams, but could add an explosive element to the productive New Orleans Saints offense.