With the season past the halfway point, we are highlighting some prospects the Raiders may consider in the upcoming draft. You can take a look at our report on South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw here. Who would you like to see highlighted next week?
In a draft with an abundance of uniquely talented wideouts, Brandon Aiyuk has flown under the radar in media circles. The 6-foot-1, 206 pound receiver came into this season as a relative unknown after playing two JuCo seasons at Sierra College and taking a backseat to N’Keal Harry last year. But as the season has gone on, it’s clear that Aiyuk is has a lot to offer.
Aiyuk’s best skill is his run after catch ability. Any time the ball is in his hands, he might just take it to the house. He showcases this RAC ability as a dangerous punt and kick returner, but also off gadget screens or quick slants that go for house calls.
Brandon Aiyuk is faster than you pic.twitter.com/gqFkVuwGJA— Brad Denny (@BDenny29) October 12, 2019
He’s a fleet-footed speedster by trade who combines his long speed with physicality and some shiftiness. He is no one-trick pony when making defenders miss, throwing stiff arms, spin moves and hesitations that makes him tough to corral in the open field. He’ll even throw a hurdle in there for good measure.
While most JuCo transfer wide receivers are unrefined as route runners, Aiyuk shows a sharpness on cuts and ability to stem up cornerbacks by forcing them to get out of phase and commit to incorrect leverage before breaking up field with another gear of acceleration. He doesn’t run a complex route tree at ASU, but the subtleties and attention to detail of his posts, outs and stop routes paint a picture of a receiver who can continue to expand his tree. His route running helps create separation consistently, but he can separate vertically and take the top off the defense as well.
*Guess I’ll check out this Brandon Aiyuk fella*— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValenciaPFN) September 7, 2019
First play: pic.twitter.com/Mu3yjK4OkR
Like many receivers with limited experience, Aiyuk can struggle to get a clean release against press-engage. He will need to improve his hand fighting to make sure he isn’t taken out of plays with jams in the NFL. He also doesn’t have the size or catch radius to body up against bigger corners, but has the hops to win on jump balls.
Aiyuk hasn’t had to make many ‘wow’ catches in tight quarters because he often finds separation from defenders due to his speed and route savvy. He plucks the ball out of the air with relative ease and is rarely ever a body catcher.
In Jon Gruden’s offense, Aiyuk could line up all over at X, Z, or F. Combined with the speedy Tyrell Williams and cerebral Hunter Renfrow, Aiyuk could operate as a threat on all levels of the field. He’d look particularly good on gadget plays (screens, jet sweeps, etc.) and stretching the defense vertically off play-action.
Brandon Aiyuk after the catch is deadly pic.twitter.com/LZncwrWmQt— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) October 3, 2019
With Dwayne Harris’ contract up and Trevor Davis profiling as more of a short-term solution, Aiyuk could also step in and return punts and kicks. Against USC, he broke off a 97-yard kick return that was devastatingly close to going the distance. After that, the Trojans decided not to kick the ball his way any more, but he still tracked down squib kick and returned in 41 yards on the very next kickoff.
Draft Range: Early-second to mid-third round