49ers Almost Used Top Pick on Aiyuk

Lynch and Shanahan had receiver ranked above all others in the first round

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk
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The 49ers selected wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk late in the first round of the recent NFL draft, but liked him so much they considered taking him even higher – something many analysts might have considered a reach.

That’s what general manager John Lynch told Peter King of NBC Sports’ “Football Morning in America” in a story published Monday.

Aiyuk, from Arizona State, wasn’t considered by most analysts to be in the top three of wide receivers available (Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III).

But the 49ers, according to Lynch, would have been excited to take Aiyuk at No. 13, the choice they received from Indianapolis in the trade for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.

Instead, the 49ers traded down to No. 14 (to get an extra pick) and selected defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (to replace Buckner) and then traded up from No. 31 to No. 25 to take Aiyuk while Ruggs, Lamb and Jeudy were selected.

“I think it was two days before the draft, I said to Kyle, ‘You know what? I know people might raise some eyebrows, but I really don’t care,’” Lynch told King. “‘At 13, if we get stuck and we can’t trade out, I’d be perfectly happy taking Aiyuk.’ And he said, ‘I’m so glad you said that ‘cause I feel the same way!’ I think we knew at that point that he had really become a guy that we had become intrigued with.”

Lynch said Aiyuk’s “combination of strength and speed and separation ability” made him attractive, as well as Lynch’s strong relationship with Arizona State coach Herm Edwards, who spoke highly of Aiyuk.

Said Lynch, who calls Edwards “one of my closest friends in the world”: “One of the things he talked about is just how competitive and how important it was for Brandon to be great. That spoke to me and spoke to us.”

Aiyuk, a 6-foot, 205-pounder, was a third-team All-America pick as a senior for the Sun Devils, catching 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns and was also one of the top punt and kick returners in the nation, averaging 16.1 yards on punts and 31.9 on kickoffs.

Shanahan told reporters after the draft that San Francisco had Aiyuk rated above all other wideouts. Aiyuk has told them he wants to be much, much better.

“I still have a lot to learn, so I have a lot to grow in my game,” said Aiyuk. “I think that for me, the ceiling is limitless. I don’t think there’s a ceiling to my game. That’s another exciting part because I know that I can continue to get better.”

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