The undefeated San Francisco 49ers look to continue their winning ways against the New York Giants on Thursday night. However, they may have to do it without Brandon Aiyuk, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. If Aiyuk plays, can fantasy football managers trust him in lineups? If he sits, would that make one of Jauan Jennings or Ray-Ray McCloud a desperation Flex play?
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Brandon Aiyuk’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
It was impressive that Aiyuk was even able to finish the game last week. He fell awkwardly on his shoulder and sprained his AC joint. This is a relatively common injury and one players can play through. But it is painful, and this is a short week.
The 49ers listed Aiyuk as questionable after a limited practice on Wednesday. He is a true game-time decision.
Assuming Aiyuk plays, there are two main concerns surrounding him this week. First, it’s a short week. It would be preferable if Aiyuk had more than three days to recover. I’d feel much better about his ability to produce at normal levels if he had the full six days in between games.
Second, it’s the Giants. The 49ers are 10-point favorites. They are going to win this game with or without Aiyuk. If they do activate him, there’s a chance he sees significantly reduced playing time, and they could pull him early if the game gets out of hand.
The last thing fantasy managers want is to put a banged-up player in their lineups on a Thursday only to watch him catch one pass for 12 yards before being put on ice. It’s a very real risk. If I were an Aiyuk manager, I would probably prefer he just sit entirely.
Which of the 49ers WRs Should You Start?
If Aiyuk sits, that would elevate Jennings to the WR2 role opposite Deebo Samuel. It would also likely result in McCloud actually seeing the field.
If Aiyuk does play, then no consideration needs to be given to Jennings or McCloud. You’re obviously not starting them even in the deepest of leagues. But if Aiyuk is held out, Jennings could become an interesting play in deeper leagues.
In Week 18 of the 2021 season, Jennings caught six passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, that is cherry-picking his best game. However, the point is merely that he’s displayed actual upside.
McCloud, on the other hand, has not. Since joining the 49ers, he’s played more than 50% of the snaps just once. So far this season, McCloud has played seven — yes, seven — offensive snaps. Even if Aiyuk is out, I can’t imagine McCloud belongs anywhere near fantasy lineups.
The Giants were very kind to Arizona Cardinals WRs last week, specifically Marquise Brown. He caught 6 of 10 targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. If Aiyuk is out, it should be a nice evening for Samuel. However, the other guy to benefit on the 49ers is probably not going to be a WR, but rather George Kittle.
The Giants surrendered six receptions for 56 yards to an immobile Zach Ertz last week. Every so often, Kittle has these blow-up games. I think Thursday night is going to be one of them.
Check out our PFN Consensus Week 3 Rankings to see where we rank the 49ers wide receivers. If Aiyuk is out, the other guys will tick up, but I would not recommend starting any 49ers other than Samuel, Aiyuk, Kittle, or Christian McCaffrey this week.
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