The San Francisco 49ers surprised some folks with their move up in the second round to draft Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis. He was an all-world punt returner in college, but he was expected to go in the third round or later. However, we’ve already started to see some buzz around Pettis. Bucky Brooks thinks he could get over 1,000 yards receiving as a rookie, and Chase Goodbread suggested him as the most likely rookie leader in receiving yards.
I took a few minutes to chat with John Sayler, contributor at SB Nation’s Washington blog, UW Dawg Pound. They talked about his crazy return skills, what he brings to the table as a receiver, and a few random off-field tidbits that are randomly entertaining.
How exactly is Pettis so good as a punt returner? His return average was ridiculous, but then you add on the touchdown returns and it’s insane.
I tried to figure that out for four years.
I will tell you that one of my favorite things about Pettis in the punt return game is the way he plays the football. The long returns and the ones that go to the house are what get all the attention, but how annoying is it when the punt is short and the return man lets it hit the ground and watches it bounce and roll 30 yards? Pettis never, ever lets that happen. He will make a beeline for the football, scream at his teammates to get out of the way, and hustle up to make a fair catch. Every time.
How does he make everyone miss on those house calls? Still a mystery.
What are his strengths as a wide receiver?
This probably factors into his punt return ability also: Dante Pettis is really athletic and faster than you think.
He is a glider who never looks like he is burning, which has allowed him to run right past corners and safeties and catch a ton of TDs. Pettis had a mild case of the “dropsies” his first two years, but once he established himself as a starter, I don’t recall him dropping any passes in his final two seasons. The hands are reliable, the route running is very good, and the run after the catch is also a strength. He also comes back hard for the football instead of waiting for it to get to him.
What does he need to do to improve his game at the NFL level? Did you notice any differences in him last year with the departure of John Ross?
Pettis is not very big, nor is he particularly strong. I personally think he can be taken out the the game by a physical corner playing press, so at the next level he projects as a slot receiver exclusively. Nowadays, however, that’s not really a knock because of the opportunity small WRs have to be productive in the NFL playing in the slot.
I don’t know if John Ross will ever get to show how good he is in the NFL, but in 2016 with the Washington Huskies he was straight-up uncoverable. Dante Pettis flourished as the No. 2 receiver that season when QB Jake Browning tossed 43 touchdowns. Last year with Ross gone, Pettis was the No. 1 guy and that’s not really what he is. He is a complementary receiver, and a really good one.
What can you tell us about his personality and how he is off the field?
Dante Pettis is one of the most beloved Huskies of this era. He is a charismatic young man who was constantly reaching out to fans on twitter to thank them for their support. He’s into photography, poetry, literature — basically everything you would not expect from a star football player. Whether Dante Pettis the player ever makes a Pro Bowl is unknown, but Dante Pettis the man is already first team All Pro.
Anything else of note worth knowing about Pettis?
Sports fans may know the Pettis name. His cousin Austin played four seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and his dad is 11-year MLB veteran Gary Pettis (now the 3rd base coach for the Houston Astros).
His brother Kyler starred on the soap opera Days of Our Lives for four years and is an up-and-coming actor.