MOBILE, Ala. — It’s customary at this time of year for NFL draft prospects to say it’s too early to start looking at rosters and depth charts trying to figure out which teams have a need at their position.
Brandon Aiyuk isn’t one of those players. In fact, the Arizona State wide receiver arrived at the Senior Bowl this week with a good idea of the teams requiring upgrades at his position. And he isn’t shy about turning the tables on the coaches and scouts he’s talking to this week while trying to size up their intentions.
Just as they are on fact-finding missions, so is he.
“I like to look at (rosters) to see what teams are in need of a receiver,” Aiyuk said. “When I’m meeting with these coaches. I ask them if receiver is a top need for them.”
Having done his homework, Aiyuk is well aware of the glaring hole the Raiders have on the perimeter of their offense. It’s one he would welcome the chance to fill, and not just because his speed, athleticism and playmaking ability appear to be a perfect fit for an offense lacking a dynamic weapon at wide receiver.
For Aiyuk, it’s a connection that goes beyond just the playing field. A Nevada native, he can definitely see himself being a part of the Raiders’ journey as they settle into their new home in Las Vegas.
“That would be exciting,” he said, his face lighting up at the thought of returning to his home state to usher in the NFL.
Aiyuk, who grew up in Reno, attended McQueen High School and was recruited by UNLV as a defensive back, was hoping to state his case this week as one of the best prospects among a deep group of receivers. But he was red-flagged for what is being described as a minor hip issue and will be sidelined for the practice sessions and the game on Saturday.
The setback isn’t expected to impact his participation at the scouting combine next month or his Pro Day at Arizona State. In fact, Aiyuk said if the game had been next week, he would have been good to go.
Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity lost. The competitive nature of the Senior Bowl, where coaches, scouts and decision-makers get to watch prospects work in one-one-one, seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 situations, is the perfect setting for an explosive athlete like Aiyuk to shine.
That is true now more than ever after he was measured at 5 feet 11 inches tall rather than the 6-1 he was listed at coming into the week. But Aiyuk’s wingspan was measured at an incredible 6 feet, 10 inches, and his hands were measured at 10 inches, which is large for a wide receiver. Still, the height could be a first-round concern for some teams.
That could benefit the Raiders, who are armed with the 12th and 19th picks in the first round. That might be too high to draft Aiyuk. But with three picks in the third round they could always move into the second round should he take a fall.
His numbers with the Sun Devils certainly back up his qualifications as a first-day pick. Aiyuk finished the 2019 season with 1,192 yards receiving and eight touchdowns and was among the most potent playmakers in the country, averaging 18.3 yards per catch. He did it while playing all wide receiver positions.
That is an intriguing level of production, especially when inserted into a Raiders offense in desperate need of a dynamic element to go alongside emerging tight end Darren Waller, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and running back Josh Jacobs.
“The NFL is all about playmaking, and that’s a part of the game I take great pride in,” Aiyuk said.