It’s tough for rookies to come in at the wide receiver position and excel right away in the NFL. It’s just not an easy transition. In college, a lot of receivers are facing guys that will never sniff an NFL roster. Often times receivers are facing off coverage in college. There are plenty of occurrences where these guys aren’t in realistic situations that they see on Sundays.
The injury didn’t do rookie Dante Pettis any favors. When he returned, he was the San Francisco 49ers clear number one threat. One thing that I feel like the football watching crowd doesn’t do a good enough job of explaining is that just because a player wasn’t targeted, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good play. Pettis is a great example of this. Against the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers especially, Pettis had routes where he made the corner look silly. On a 12-yard curl, I saw him make a corner literally fall against Tampa Bay. On a simple 10-yard in route against Bradley Roby, Pettis made the now Houston Texan’s knees buckle. He’s fascinating to watch.
Rare rookie numbers
The production Pettis put up when he was targeted was nothing short of impressive. In 40 targets Pettis scored five touchdowns. 33 of those targets came with backup QBs. Scoring a touchdown once every eight targets is unheard of. To do so without the starting quarterback screams that Pettis has a bright future ahead of him.
Pettis finished the year with 27 receptions. 19 of those went for a first down.
Look through some previous rookie year numbers. You’re not going to find this type of production. Credit Kyle Shanahan for moving Pettis around. Credit Pettis for being able to win at every level of the field. Check out some of these routes. He was really, really good last year:
dante pettis:— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) March 19, 2019
-scored a touchdown once every eight targets as a rookie.
-19 of his 27 catches went for 1st downs
-broke a lot of ankles last year. pic.twitter.com/sztASIYXxr
Injuries. That’s what will slow Pettis down. You will usually see players make their biggest jump from year one to year two. If the 49ers are going to make some noise and be the offense that everyone hopes, Pettis has to stay healthy. He’s the only true perimeter threat that can consistently win 1-on-1 on the roster. That will likely change with the draft. I fear that Pettis may have spoiled Niner fans and they will expect whoever the team selects to come in and be just as productive in year one. That’s just not a realistic expectation. Thinking Pettis can be a true number one receiver in year two is, though.