ESPN writer argues Pro Bowl snub Aiyuk should replace Rams’ Nacua

NBC Sports Bay Area

The NFL announced the 2024 NFL Pro Bowl Games rosters Wednesday, and nine 49ers player made the cut. 

While San Francisco produced the highest number of Pro Bowl selections during the 2023 NFL season, there arguably were 49ers who got snubbed.

ESPN analytics writer Seth Walder believes star wideout Brandon Aiyuk is one of those snubs, left off the NFC Pro Bowl roster despite his status as a top target of MVP candidate Brock Purdy.

“This is the hardest sell to me,” Walder wrote in a piece published Wednesday night. “I’m sure he got dinged for ‘only’ 1,317 receiving yards but that is partially driven by the fact that the 49ers are leading so often that they have become run-heavy late in games.

“The advanced metrics also back up Aiyuk, who leads all players in [ESPN’s] receiver tracking metrics’ overall score (97) for the season.”

Walder believes Aiyuk deserves a Pro Bowl nod over Los Angeles Rams rookie Puka Nacua, listing the young receiver as the player Aiyuk should replace.

Through 17 weeks, Aiyuk has 72 receptions for 1,317 yards and seven touchdowns. In comparison, Nacua has 101 receptions for 1,445 yards and five touchdowns.

However, as Walder wrote, Aiyuk likely has less impressive numbers due to the 49ers’ season-long dominance, which allows coach Kyle Shanahan to rest starters before the end of games.

Meanwhile, Nacua plays for a gritty 9-7 Rams team that was missing Cooper Kupp for what will be a total of five games this season, often making Nacua Matthew Stafford’s primary option.

This year, Aiyuk became the fifth 49ers receiver to have consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons, as the star wideout had 1,015 receiving yards a season ago.

After San Francisco’s 28-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14, Shanahan praised Aiyuk for his development and persistence.

“Just every year, [Aiyuk] gets so much better on the football field and also off the football field, which leads to the football field in terms of how mature he is,” Shanahan said about the Arizona State product. “He’s one of our leaders in there. I think BA’s come a long way. He gets so amped up for the games.”

Aiyuk isn’t the only 49ers wideout to miss out on the Pro Bowl. Deebo Samuel, who has 58 receptions for 871 yards and seven touchdowns, also wasn’t granted the honor. Both, however, were selected as alternates.

While Aiyuk and Samuel didn’t get the respect many feel they deserve, San Francisco is well represented in the Pro Bowl’s final NFC roster.

Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Charvarius Ward and Fred Warner will represent San Francisco’s defense, while Christian McCaffrey, Brock Purdy, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle and Trent Williams round out the 49ers’ offensive selections.

Although Aiyuk still is searching for his first Pro Bowl nod, the 49ers know what the 25-year-old brings to the table.

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