Perhaps the biggest name on the NFL's hot stove during the NFL Draft is 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who has been subject to swirling trade rumors in recent weeks. Reports have ranged from John Lynch wants Aiyuk with the 49ers for his entire career, to Aiyuk could still be traded during the draft and the Steelers have pursued him. Plus, on draft day there were additional reports that the 49ers were shopping both Deebo Samuel and Aiyuk. 

While no deal came to fruition on Thursday, San Francisco certainly fueled the fire by drafting Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall with the 31st overall pick.  

Aiyuk certainly won't come cheap, as the new deals for A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown prove. A team could have to give up a lot of draft capital and a new deal worth roughly $30 million per year for him. 

Here's three reasons teams should be bending over backwards to acquire him as the draft rages on. 

1. Aiyuk is REALLY good

First, and most importantly, Aiyuk is a bonafide WR1 who established himself as a star in 2023. He ranked seventh in the NFL with 1,342 receiving yards last year and joined Jerry Rice as the only players in 49ers history with at least seven 100-yard receiving games in a season.

Brandon Aiyuk Last Season
NFL Rank

Rec yards



100-yard games



Yards per reception



First-down pct



Yards per route run



He's underrated and this should erase any qualms about his ability to be a WR1. He caught 14 of 20 passes thrown both outside the numbers and 15-plus air yards last season, the best rate (70%) of any player in the last four seasons (min. 20 targets). He can line up outside and beat you deep. 

He is also one of the best route runners in the league who can catch the ball in traffic and do damage after the catch. He averaged 3.1 yards per route run in 2023, the third-best rate in the NFL behind Tyreek Hill and Nico Collins (min. 400 routes).

Aiyuk had the top overall rating (96) among ESPN's receiver metrics in 2023, which uses player tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats on every route run to rate how a player gets open, catches and gains YAC. He specifically had the highest catch rating (97) too, which looks at the likelihood of a catch occurring based factors such as where a receiver is in relation to the defenders.

Simply put, Aiyuk is a fantastic wideout, a route technician who can snatch the football and get YAC, but also burn you deep. 

2. Veteran WRs are worth it

The NFL is a copycat league and the hottest trend is trading a first-round pick for a veteran wide receiver. Those deals have had a very high hit rate in recent years. 

Check out the five veterans traded for a first-round pick since 2020. Four of the five are superstars with the exception of Marquise Brown. And another added benefit was three of the acquiring teams (Eagles, Dolphins, Bills) saw their young QBs flourish after the deal. The Bills, Colts and Patriots, among others, should be all-in on Aiyuk. 

First-Round Picks Traded For Veteran WRs Since 2020Rec Yards Rank Since Trade

2022 Tyreek Hill (Dolphins)


2022 Marquise Brown (Cardinals)


2022 Davante Adams (Raiders)


2022 A.J. Brown (Eagles)


2020 Stefon Diggs (Bills)


3. Drafting a WR is the first round is much riskier

Dealing a first-round pick for a player like Aiyuk is even more attractive when you consider the alternative. 

Only 27% of WRs drafted in the first round from 2000-19 signed a second contract with their draft team (per ESPN's Paul Hembekides), the worst rate among any position. 

Even if the cost for a veteran WR is much higher than a player on their rookie deal, I'll take the hit rate on trading a first-round pick for a veteran WR rather than drafting one with that pick. 

Question is, will the 49ers actually play ball? I don't think they should give up a star like Aiyuk when they are Super Bowl contenders, but Thursday's draft choice make it clear something's gotta give with Aiyuk or Samuel.