The hot-seat watch kicked into gear when Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season started.

While most hot-seat analysis centers on coaches, it applies to players too. Onlookers have seen this in action with coaches benching players in openers and at least one quarterback situation in need of change in the minds of fans.

Still, it's important to differentiate between whether a player had a bad game and whether a team needs to think about the future. The Jacksonville Jaguars, for example, won't bench big-time wideout DJ Chark Jr., but he only caught three of 12 targets in a drop-happy wideout group that made first overall pick Trevor Lawrence look bad in a Week 1 loss to Houston.

The following players, though, reside on warm seats already, and one or two more bad showings could be bad for their snap counts.


Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

It seemed safe to project a big leap in year two for San Francisco 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk.

A first-round pick by the 49ers in 2020, Aiyuk plays in one of the league's premier offenses, orchestrated by Kyle Shanahan, and is poised to grow alongside potential franchise passer and third overall pick Trey Lance.

Or not. Aiyuk was a backup in San Francisco's Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions. He didn't see a target while Trent Sherfield started opposite Deebo Samuel.

Shanahan noted in a postgame presser that Aiyuk missed time with a hamstring issue this summer but added, "Trent Sherfield has earned the right to be out there more."

That's not a ringing endorsement of a first-rounder who had 748 yards and five touchdowns last year over 12 games. Aiyuk's seat seems hot for a number of reasons, and the pressure to perform should be immense.


Ezra Cleveland, OG, Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings' offensive line was one of the worst-performing units of the opening slate in the team's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Guard Ezra Cleveland and the line made mistake after mistake, accounting for 70 of the team's 116 penalty yards on 12 penalties compared to Cincinnati's three. Kirk Cousins suffered three sacks, and another was canceled out by a penalty.

The Vikings will have to do something to mitigate the issues. All five linemen can't be getting called for flags after a summer training camp of zero issues on this front. Maybe they move Cleveland out to tackle, or maybe they sit the 2020 second-rounder after he allowed five sacks with a 66.2 Pro Football Focus grade over 13 games as a rookie.

Either way, Cleveland's days as an interior player are under the microscope.