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Hidden Gems

NFL Draft’s First-Round Gem

If you’re looking for a hidden gem from the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, keep an eye Brandon Aiyuk.
Three factors make Aiyuk, taken by the San Francisco 49ers with the 25th overall pick, a player to watch when the coronavirus allows play to resume.
First, Aiyuk has shown a consistent ability to improve. In an analysis on the day after the first round, CBSSports.com pointed out that Aiyuk wasn’t on the radar screen coming out of high school, and was ranked No. 136 among junior college players in 2018 out of Sierra College. That shows continuous improvement, often a tip-off to a hidden gem who suddenly races ahead of players who once seemed much better. Improvement gives a deep look into character. No one can improve without focus, hard work, a willingness to be coached, and the toughness to meet challenges. So far, Aiyuk has shown that.
Second, the 49ers seem to know what they’re doing. Besides getting to Super Bowl LIV, they were rated No. 1 by NFL.com for their 2019 draft. Their top two picks, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, both became impact players. In 2018, General Manager John Lynch’s second draft in San Francisco produced a grade of B. And ESPN.com rated San Francisco’s 2017 draft class as “above average.” Past performance is no guarantee for how this year’s crop turns out. But under Lynch, the Niners seem to have a good eye.
Finally, the 49ers gave up a lot to get Aiyuk. If he flops, the fans and media will remind him every day. That could add to the pressure that comes with being a first-round pick.
No doubt this year’s draft will produce its share of flops and hidden gems. Right now a player who was barely on the radar screen coming out of high school could wind up being a find.


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