We all know the one burning question facing Dante Pettis: was that a hadoken or a kamehameha that he was celebrating with in the Seahawks game? Fans still want to know.
I’m joking. The question is if he is the true No. 1 that the 49ers, or at least the fans, are looking for. As a rookie, Pettis found himself in and out of the injury list. When he was able to play full games, he looked pretty good. The one knock you could give him was his frame, which needed weight by the ton. Beyond that, Pettis finished the 2018 season with 27 receptions, 467 yards, and five touchdowns. Oh and a 17.3 yards-per-reception. Not bad for a guy who played in 12 games. The problem is those injuries.
Speaking on Pettis’ drafting, the issue when he was drafted in 2018 wasn’t so much him as a player. I mean, look at the numbers. It was the fact the 49ers traded up to get him when he very well could have been available if they stayed put in the second round.
When drafted, many of us salivated over the fact he could be a huge punt returner. It was apparent rather quick that the 49ers had other ideas for him in mind, like being a No. 1 wide receiver. Or at least someone to plug around the field. Is Pettis that guy?
Experience: One season
Weight: 197 [Note: he’s stated to have gained weight and is over the 200 lb mark. This has not been approximated]
He is on a four-year rookie deal. His 2019 cap hit will be $1.45 million. If the 49ers decide to release him, he will carry a dead money hit of $2.82 million.
How he can improve
I bring up this comparison a lot with Pettis and that’s Antonio Brown. In Brown’s rookie season, he played nine games, started in none, had zero touchdowns and a cool 167 receiving yards. You know what Mr. Big Chest can do now.
Is Pettis Antonio Brown? No. At least, not yet. The point is for anyone calling Pettis a disappointment, remember star wide receivers aren’t born in a season. Yes, Pettis has his injury issues, but so did everyone who wore red and gold in 2018.
From all observations, Pettis will have a much larger role in 2019. He’ll be plugged around the field in various positions. His ability to shake and bake and shrug coverage will make him get open for crucial touchdowns—and he’ll be depended on to make catches no one else can. He will need to keep himself healthy first and foremost. Those huge numbers at the end of the season will need to carry for an entire 16-game gauntlet in 2019. That of course means staying off the injury list.
Pettis has increased some weight to his frame and is aware of the expectations. I mean, look at this tweet:
some people be like "george kittle broke an nfl record in his second year, its a disappointment if dante doesnt the same thing !!"— dante (@dmainy_13) July 1, 2019
The pressure is on. Pettis needs to stay healthy and be able to play all the spots on the field (yes, all wide receiver spots) if he is ready to take that next step. The 49ers coaching staff has said they wanted to play Pettis at several different positions, it’s time to see it.
How he can regress
That weight of his can cause issues and that inspiring ending to 2018 could have been false hope. If Pettis can’t stay healthy, it’s going to be far more disappointing than just a few games. If the 49ers really want that No. 1 wide receiver like some of us think they do, it’s either Pettis or 2019 draft pick Deebo Samuel.
Samuel also could be looked at as getting work and may leapfrog Pettis during training camp if he proves himself capable.
The one thing to remember is Pettis’ commitment to football. It was a question coming out of college and so far doesn’t seem to be an issue, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Odds of making the roster
Given that the 49ers are going to lose more money if they cut a second-year player, Pettis is a lock to make the roster unless he has an awful awful training camp. So far there hasn’t been anything suggesting as such.
Pettis has the capability to take the 49ers in the direction we all want them to go. It’s a matter of if he can. 2019 will be an interesting season to watch to see the development of Pettis and if he’s that No. 1 wide receiver some hope he can be.