PFF grades 49ers' Aiyuk as NFL's third-best rookie so far originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Brandon Aiyuk's slow start to his NFL career is in the rearview mirror. The previous three games have been his best, with the 49ers rookie catching no fewer than six passes and accruing at least 75 receiving yards in each contest.
Aiyuk appears to have turned a corner, and Pro Football Focus is inclined to agree. The football analytics site gave the receiver the third-best grade among all rookies (79.0) through 11 weeks this season.
"He's been red-hot as of late, though, raising his yards per route run figure to 2.63 and earning a receiving grade of 87.3 over the last three games, the third-best grade at the position over that span," Anthony Treash wrote of Aiyuk on Tuesday.
Aiyuk, Treash noted, has been particularly good against single coverage lately. In his last two games combined before the 49ers' bye in Week 11, Aiyuk caught 10 of 12 targets for 125 yards and scored two touchdowns. All but 41 of his receiving yards and five of his receptions came against single coverage.
The rookie's last three weeks (21 receptions, 281 yards and two TDs) account for over half of his receiving output on the season (35 receptions, 446 yards and three TDs). Aiyuk wasn't used as much or as effectively as a rusher in his last three games before the bye, but he has led the 49ers in targets, catches, receiving yards and touchdowns since Week 7 despite missing a game. He's fifth in the NFL in yards per game (93.7) during that time.
With star tight end George Kittle still sidelined, Aiyuk is going to receive a lot of attention from opposing defenses over the 49ers' final six games as one of their top receiving threats. Deebo Samuel's return should help, but Aiyuk will get a true measure of his progress Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams held Aiyuk to just two receptions (on three targets) for 12 yards and a TD in Week 6, and the rookie's hot streak has occurred in his three games since then. If Aiyuk can keep it up against one of the NFL's best secondaries, his emergence won't be a secret for much longer.