The San Francisco 49ers surprised some folks two weeks ago when they traded up to select Washington wide receiver in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The team had brought him in for a pre-draft visit, so it was not a surprise they picked him. But some were surprised by the second round pick.
However, since the pick, early projections have been high for the newest 49ers receiver. Earlier this week, NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks suggested Pettis is the rookie receiver most likely to reach 1,000 yards in 2018. A couple days later, NFL.com college writer Chase Goodbread listed Pettis in his rookie superlatives as “most likely rookie leader in receiving yards.” He offered this reasoning:
With promising QB Jimmy Garoppolo entering his first full season as a starter, Pettis has a quarterback who should give him ample opportunity to make a big impact. The same can be said for others -- Calvin Ridley in Atlanta with Matt Ryan, for instance -- but Pettis won’t have Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu commanding targets ahead of him.
Pettis was the fourth receiver off the board in this year’s draft. D.J. Moore went No. 24 to the Carolina Panthers, followed by Calvin Ridley No. 26 to the Atlanta Falcons, and Courtland Sutton No. 40 to the Denver Broncos.
ESPN’s Mike Clay put together his early rookie fantasy rankings, and among receivers, he had Pettis ranked 11th. Moore, Ridley, and Sutton led the way, followed by James Washington, Christian Kirk, Anthony Miller, Michael Gallup, D.J. Chark, Tre’Quan Smith, and Keke Coutee.
Pettis has a chance to make a big impact as a return man, but can he jump out as a receiver in year one? While talented, he is stepping into a somewhat deep wide receiver depth chart. Sure, there is plenty of room for improvement, but Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, and Trent Taylor all will be getting plenty of looks. After that, Pettis is competing with Kendrick Bourne and Aldrick Robinson at least for whatever opportunities remain. He could emerge from the pack, but it’s going to be an uphill climb for him as a rookie.