Brandon Aiyuk has been one of the standout fantasy football wide receivers in an impressive rookie class. There are still two games to go, though, so the question becomes whether you should start Brandon Aiyuk in fantasy in Week 16 or not?
Brandon Aiyuk by the numbers
Despite only playing 11 games, he has 59 receptions on 94 targets for 733 yards and five touchdowns. He also has five rush attempts for 61 yards and two touchdowns. His catch rate could improve, but he has looked dangerous whenever he gets the ball in his hands. San Francisco 49ers fans will be excited to see what he’s capable of with a full preseason.
Aiyuk has been the WR22 in fantasy football this season, despite missing games and taking some time to find his feet. In fact, he has been the WR11 in points per game. That puts him right between Stefon Diggs and Julio Jones, which shows just how valuable he has been for fantasy managers.
Aiyuk is the top wide receiver for the 49ers
Aiyuk got off to a slow start due to a hamstring injury in training camp. He’s now showing, though, exactly why the 49ers selected him with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Since then, he’s grown into his role, and with two weeks left of the season, is on course to make history. He needs just 194 receiving yards in his final two games to surpass Jerry Rice’s record for the most receiving yards by a 49ers rookie in franchise history. It’s no small feat, but certainly one that Aiyuk is capable of achieving.
Injuries to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel left a lot of targets to go around for the remaining receivers. Brandon Aiyuk has been a reliable fantasy option in the second half of the season. He has 69 targets in his last six games and is averaging 7.5 receptions per game and 94.7 receiving yards. He also has four touchdowns in that time.
Aiyuk is coming off another productive game. In Week 15, against the Dallas Cowboys, he hauled in nine of his 13 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. This impressive performance was enough to make him the WR6 in standard scoring.
Who are the other options in San Francisco?
Kendrick Bourne will be the secondary option at WR for the 49ers on Saturday. He lacks the upside of Aiyuk, of course, and is viewed more as a sleeper play. For Aiyuk, his biggest competition for targets will likely come in the form of All-Pro tight end George Kittle, however.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan has made it clear that he intends to play Kittle in both of the remaining games this season, if at all possible. Kittle has missed extended time this season since suffering a foot injury. If he’s able to return, he’ll instantly become a big factor, as he always is.
Aiyuk’s involvement has increased since Kittle has been out of the lineup. Despite the talk from Shanahan, it remains to be seen if Kittle actually plays in this game. Funneling the passing game through a tight end who has been on the sideline for almost two months seems unwise.
Brandon Aiyuk should still shine despite questions at quarterback
The ever-changing situation at quarterback for the 49ers makes projecting Aiyuk a little more difficult. Nick Mullens left the game against the Cowboys in Week 15 in the fourth quarter with an elbow injury. As a result, Mullens has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Mullens had been at the helm for the majority of Aiyuk’s rookie season, and the two had developed solid chemistry.
C.J. Beathard came in to replace Mullens and targeted Aiyuk with two of his six passing attempts. Only one of those connected, but the 26-yard completion showed that he was willing to look Aiyuk’s way. The rookie wide receiver should continue to be an important part of the game plan.
Will Josh Rosen play?
The expectation is that Beathard will start against the Cardinals, but the 49ers opened up another possibility at the QB position. This week, the 49ers signed Josh Rosen off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad.
Rosen was the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and would undoubtedly welcome the opportunity to face the team who moved on from him after only a season. It would be a surprise if Rosen were anything more than the backup in Week 16, given the short turnaround. However, if the 49ers do feel as if they need to make a change, then he’s expected to be the next man up.
The 49ers won’t want to get into a shootout with their third-string quarterback and will likely believe that their best chance of success against the Cardinals is to run the ball. While they’ve had success with that approach in the past, they will be relying on Jeff Wilson to carry the load on the ground.
The Cardinals have performed well against running backs this season. Shanahan will likely be forced to put the ball in Beathard’s hands at some point if they’re going to keep pace.
Should I start Brandon Aiyuk in Week 16 fantasy football?
The Cardinals have been an average pass defense this season. They’re allowing the 14th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season and rank 23rd in Defensive Points Allowed Consistency Score (DPAC), which confirms that they’re not giving up high fantasy points to WRs often. Aiyuk missed the Week 1 matchup between the two teams. The passing game ended up being funneled largely through running back Raheem Mostert in that game.
This week, Aiyuk should be the most-targeted wide receiver on the team. As a reward, he’s likely to see a lot of Patrick Peterson. Peterson, the eight-time Pro Bowler, isn’t the shutdown corner he once was, but he’s still capable of causing opposing receivers issues.
Brandon Aiyuk currently ranks 26th among wide receivers in Fantasy Football Consistency Score (CS), which shows how consistently a player scores high fantasy points. Aiyuk hasn’t proven himself as a player with a consistently-high ceiling in fantasy football yet. He has had 100 receiving yards or a touchdown in his last seven games, though.
If you’re playing in Week 16 for a fantasy championship, Brandon Aiyuk likely contributed to that. He’s established himself as a solid play week-to-week and should continue to do so.
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