Were you on the fence about the 49ers’ second-round selection of now-former Washington Huskies wide receiver Dante Pettis? Don’t fret if you find yourself thinking like this because I, too, did not know what to think - I mean, I’ve been covering PAC-12 football for the last year and half so I knew that what San Francisco is getting in Pettis is a player who can break the game open at any point (he had 9 career punt returns for touchdowns in college - which happens to be an NCAA record).
Pettis missed the combine due to an ankle injury but the tale of the tape was enough for him to be selected in the second round.
Weight: 186 lbs
Arms: 32 1/4”
Hands: 9 1/2”
- Can play receiver on the outside or in slot
- Fine-tuned route running; is able to run entire route tree
- Accelerates off line and sinks hips very well
- Natural pass-catcher
- Consistently evades first tackler and uses sneaky-speed to reach top gear
- Had inconsistent production during stretches while in college
- Scouts say he lacks an alpha personality
- Must add muscle and play strength to his frame
- Physical corners can have their way with him on line of scrimmage, throwing him off of his game
- May need to alter route speeds a little more on the pro level
At first glance it seems like he lacks the speed necessary to excel as a receiver in the NFL but, upon further inspection, his speed sort of sneaks up on you.
His aforementioned punt return skills help showcase his sneaky speed - I mean, when you watch him, it’s not an overwhelming speed but almost looks like he’s gliding past defenders and I am very much into it. For reference, take a look at this particular return against Fresno State:
I think we all love Trent Taylor. While he is a reliable option as a returner, he’s not really someone who is a threat to take it the distance on any given kickoff or punt. With Pettis, that is a viable outcome for the San Francisco special teams unit (something that has been lacking since the likes of Ted Ginn, Jr).
He is widely regarded as the best returner in this year’s class, but what gets lost on people is his skillset as a receiver. His strengths include precise route running and, as mentioned before, his sneaky speed. In college he was most effective when he was opposite a number one receiver (John Ross) so it will be interesting to see if he can develop into a number two option, opposite Pierre Garçon - whose return should add to what is an already up-and-coming 49er offense. An anonymous West Coast Scout said as much via NFL.com:
[He is r]eally good with his routes. He was better last year when he had John Ross on the other side getting so much attention. He’s not incredibly fast which is why his punt return production is so impressive. He has a great feel for it.
What the coaching staff (presumably) likes about Dante Pettis is his ability to run routes, which is also something that isn’t lost on others, as evidenced by the opinion of those on Twitter (and some accompanying videos):
Pettis has the hip flexibility to sink them and create smooth, crisp breaks. He drops them, and detaches his upper body from his lower - shoulders turn inside while lower body stays forward.— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) February 10, 2018
Catches CB with his feet in the mud, and draws the DPI as a result pic.twitter.com/DindEMJnnH
Dante Pettis can play in the slot or on the outside. He's got very legit 1-on-1 ball skills in the red zone. He runs a full route tree. After a couple years of seasoning, this very well could be the 49ers No. 1 WR of the future pic.twitter.com/exyR0Z7OKb— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) April 28, 2018
Pettis is proficient when running routes due to his excellent body control and impressive ability to sell his hip movements to opposing defenders without hinting at his next movement. He had also shown flashes at Washington and, as Kevin Jones has stated, it will take a couple years of seasoning but I think it is not entirely inconceivable to think that he has a shot at both contributing early on and later developing into a go-to No. 1 receiver.
Another strength that Pettis has to his advantage is his pass-catching ability. For example, here he is hauling in a one-handed catch for a touchdown against the Oregon Ducks:
And here he is hauling in a pass from Jake Browning and using his speed to take it to the house for a touchdown:
Pettis has incredible balance to pair with his explosiveness (24'7 foot Long Jump)— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) February 10, 2018
Tracks the ball, extends his hands to the catchpoint over CB and maintains his balance for YAC TD. Effortless. pic.twitter.com/tbjBs2zZKU
It’s plays like these that, if made at the next level, will make Pettis a steal as a second-round pick. Not to mention, he is also a completely willing blocker in the run-game; to be fair, he still has some muscle he needs to add to his frame but — at worst — he will be a nuisance to defenders by just being in the way.
Is he a good fit for the 49ers?
Perhaps it’s unfair to ask, but it’s also fun to speculate and, personally, I think he is a great fit for both Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo. As we all know, Shanahan’s offensive system is based on creating mismatches and stretching defenses both horizontally and vertically — lucky for the Niners, Pettis can do both. Additionally, those who are worried that Jimmy Garoppolo lacks the ability to challenge a defense vertically should rest easy knowing that Pettis can absolutely hold his own when it comes to winning deep while also being able to track - and backtrack to - the ball.
Furthermore, Dante Pettis’ ability to create separation from defenders in the red zone should provide huge dividends for a San Francisco offense that has been lacking consistent threats in the red zone over the years. Look for that to change soon.
What do you think? Did San Francisco reach in trading up to No. 44, or will Dante Pettis end up providing great value?