New 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had a fine senior season at Arizona State in 2019, but at the NFL combine in February he put up a disappointing time in the 40-yard dash.
Aiyuk’s time of 4.5 seconds ranked just 21st among wideouts at the combine and in the 71st percentile for the position overall, noted Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee.
Yet that slower-than-expected time didn’t dissuade the 49ers from moving up from the 31st spot in the first round to the 25th to select him.
In fact, they believe that 40 time doesn’t reflect his true speed. Matt Barrows of The Athletic reported this week that San Francisco general manager John Lynch and team scouts knew Aiyuk had recently come off surgery to repair a core-muscle injury and that to run a 4.5 time while still dealing with that issue was impressive.
Barrows wrote that Aiyuk in fact has elite speed that would rank among the best in the NFL. Citing Next Gen Stats, Barrows reported Aiyuk recorded a speed of 21.97 mph in an Arizona State game this past season (recorded by a GPS device in his shoulder pads). Only three NFL players recorded faster speeds in 2019: Matt Breida (22.3 mph), Cordarrelle Patterson (22.23) and Brandon Wilson (22.03).
The 49ers loved Aiyuk’s production for the Sun Devils in his two seasons (after transferring from a community college), and the way he separated from defenders once he had the ball in his hands. As a senior, Aiyuk averaged 18.3 yards per catch and had 1,192 yards on 65 catches with eight touchdowns. He also was a dangerous returner of both kickoffs (31.9 average) and punts (16.1, with a touchdown).
Aiyuk’s head coach at Arizona State, Herm Edwards, said recently on 95.7 The Game that the wide receiver has exceptional speed and his time at the combine is no reflection on his ability to outrace defenders. Edwards even compared him to 49ers Hall of Fame wideout Jerry Rice.
“Rice, if you ran him in the 40, you go, ‘this guy can’t run,’” Edwards said. “Jerry Rice in a football uniform, playing a football game? And I know, I tried to cover him – you can’t catch him. That’s football speed.
“This guy (Aiyuk) has got football speed now. So don’t lose sight of that.”