3. Denzel Ward shuts down Brandon Aiyuk
Deebo Samuel is the big name that everyone knows in the 49ers aerial attack. He stands out with flashy plays and is able to do damage as both a runner and receiver — evidenced by his six touchdown receptions and eight rushing touchdowns in 2021. He's definitely a Swiss Army Knife who can do damage — but he's not San Francisco's No. 1 wideout.
Instead, that honor belongs to Brandon Aiyuk who has developed into one of the better route runners in the entire NFL. Aiyuk broke into the league in 2020 with 60 receptions for 748 yards and has improved in each season that followed. This past year, he hauled in 78 receptions for 1,015 yards with eight touchdowns — all career highs.
Heading into Week 6, he already has 21 catches for 378 yards (a staggering 18.0 yards per reception average) and two touchdowns. All of that means he's the player Denzel Ward is going to follow.
The No. 4 overall pick in 2018, Ward is playing the best football of his career right now. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has helped him unlock his potential as he's shut down just about everyone he's faced when allowed to play in man coverage.
On Sunday, the Browns will need him to shadow Aiyuk and Ward will be up to the task. That's why this bold prediction is that he keeps Aiyuk from being a game-wrecker, holding him to under 50 yards and no touchdowns.