Kyle Shanahan compared 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk to Hall of Famer Issac Bruce

Josh Schrock
·4 min read

If you haven't realized this by now, Kyle Shanahan is an offensive genius who excels at finding players who will thrive in his scheme.

Tight end George Kittle and second-year wide receiver Deebo Samuel are two such examples of guys who went somewhat overlooked in the draft process, but Shanahan pinpointed as guys he wanted. The 49ers had a third-round grade on Kittle but gambled and waited until the fifth-round to take him. In a 2019 receiver class with A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, N'Keal Harry and Marquise Brown, Samuel rarely was viewed among the top options in the draft, but Shanahan took him in the second round.

Both Kittle and Samuel thrived in San Francisco, which goes to show that if Shanahan likes an offensive player and you don't, you might want to re-think your scouting system.

Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is the latest gadget in Shanahan's arsenal. The 49ers drafted the Arizona State wide receiver with the No. 25 overall pick, and Shanahan apparently was in love with the dynamic playmaker from the start of the scouting process.

"I think Kyle would probably agree with you there," NBC Sports' Chris Simms told Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe about Aiyuk being a big part of the 49ers' offense from the jump. "Kyle, throughout the draft process, was in love with Brandon Aiyuk, and it took a lot for me not to spit his name out more in the draft process."

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In one of the most loaded receiver classes in recent NFL history, it says something that Shanahan was zeroed in on Aiyuk with guys like Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy leading the class. In a group with a number of potential stars, Shanahan was drawn to Aiyuk above the rest.

Once Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were able to put Aiyuk in red and gold, the 49ers coach likened his new receiver to a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

"Look, full transparency, I think he was thinking about taking him at pick [14] where he took Javon Kinlaw," Simms said. "He said to me, 'I think he's Isaac Bruce.' That's who I think I got here."

With Deebo Samuel suffering a Jones fracture in his foot during a workout with teammates in Nashville this offseason, Aiyuk will have even more on his plate to open his NFL career.

Aiyuk is a YAC king with an impressive 81-inch wingspan and speed to rip the top off a defense who models his game after Odell Beckham Jr. Shanahan no doubt spent all offseason drawing up plays to get the ball in Aiyuk's hands with space to turn a short gain into an explosive play. The 49ers drafted Aiyuk to help fill the void left by Emmanuel Sanders after the veteran joined the New Orleans Saints in free agency. But with Samuel possibly missing the first few games of the 2020 season, Aiyuk likely will be looked at as the top receiver in the pattern and No. 2 pass-catching option after Kittle.

[RELATED: Deebo's injury opens door for Aiyuk, Hurd, Jennings]

As for Shanahan's comparison, Bruce was one of the top receivers in the NFL for more than a decade. Part of the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams, Bruce, 6-foot, 190 pounds, was a route-running surgeon who finished his career with 15,208 yards, fifth all-time between Randy Moss and Tony Gonzalez. Like Aiyuk, Bruce didn't have an electric 40-yard dash time, but his quick-change ability and second burst made him one of the stars of the NFL's passing boom. Bruce had a great ability to find holes in the zone, catch the ball, take a hit a burst upfield for a big gain, leaving defenses shook.

Shanahan believes he has a player like that in Aiyuk.

If he's right, a number of NFL teams will have egg on their face for passing on Aiyuk.

Kyle Shanahan compared 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk to Hall of Famer Issac Bruce originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area