CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk 'Very Evenly Matched' Atop 49ers' NFL Draft Big Board

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. Aiyuk was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the NFL draft. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch traded up in the first round to select Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk, but he considered taking him a lot earlier.

According to Peter King of NBC Sports, Lynch revealed the 49ers had Aiyuk and CeeDee Lamb "very evenly matched" atop their big board and would have taken Aiyuk as early as No. 13:

“I think it was two days before the draft, I said to Kyle [Shanahan], you know what? I know people might raise some eyebrows, but I really don’t care. 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. I think the combination of strength and speed and separation ability and then the advantage, I think in a year like this, you have to trust relationships more than ever before.

"[Arizona State coach] Herm Edwards, he's the godparent to my youngest daughter. I'm his son's godparent. He coached me for a long time. One of my closest friends in the world. I called Herm and I said, 'Herm, give me the skinny on this kid.' 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."

The 49ers wound up trading back one spot to No. 14 and selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. They then traded up six slots from No. 31 to nab Aiyuk, who was the sixth receiver to come off the board in Round 1.

Aiyuk took a circuitous route to becoming a first-round pick, beginning his college career at Sierra College, a junior college in California, before transferring to Arizona State. A forgettable junior season left him on few NFL radars coming into 2019, but he broke out as a senior, recording 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to a first-team All-Pac 12 selection.

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan compared him to former Rams star Isaac Bruce in a private conversation with NBC Sports' Chris Simms. 

"When Kyle Shanahan told me, 'Man, I think this guy is Isaac Bruce,' and we had a conversation of, 'Would people think I'm crazy if I took Brandon Aiyuk at 13?' I said: 'Some might. But because of your track record, and if you say a statement like, "I think he could be Isaac Bruce," that will shut people up in a hurry,'" Simms said on his Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast.

Aiyuk will be joining an offense that needed help at receiver. Tight end George Kittle led the team with 1,053 receiving yards in 2019, and no wideout topped Deebo Samuel's 802 yards. With Samuel, Aiyuk and Kittle, the 49ers hope they'll have enough weapons for Jimmy Garoppolo to take the next step and become a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.