Dante Pettis is proving through 2 games he was no reach

49ers WR impressing early on in his NFL life

Tommy Call
September 20, 2018 - 5:45 pm

The 49ers traded up in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft to select Dante Pettis out of Washington 44th overall, the fourth receiver taken in the draft class. The 49ers needed a young receiver, but with other players on the board at 44, some draftniks called this pick a reach; now after only two games in the NFL Pettis has outperformed all rookie receivers and has even better numbers through two games than Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown through their first two games as rookies. So, now lets ask again was drafting Pettis 44th overall a reach?

Pettis leads all rookie wide receivers in receiving yardage with 96 yards on three receptions plus one dazzling touchdown reception. He is out producing both receivers who were taken in the first round of the 2018 draft, D.J. Moore (1 REC, 51 YDS, TD) and Calvin Ridley (4 REC, 64 YDS, TD). Don’t forget both Moore and Ridley are playing with quarterbacks with Super Bowl experience in Cam Newton and Matt Ryan. Ridley is playing alongside Julio Jones, one of the best receivers in the NFL, who consistently demands the best opposing corner, while Pettis has yet to play with a fully healthy 49ers receiving corp.

This receiving draft class was considered light with only five receivers going in the first two rounds, but go back to 2017, three receivers went in the top-10 picks. Corey Davis went 5th overall to Tennessee, Mike Williams went 7th to the L.A. Chargers and John Ross, Pettis’s former teammate went 10th to Cincinnati. Although these three top-10 receivers had injury riddled seasons leading to  rookie seasons— Pettis has already gained more receiving yards and scored more touchdowns than Davis, Williams and Ross had their full rookie seasons.

Now taking comparisons one step farther, let’s go back to the Beckham and Brown rookie campaigns from earlier. It’s hard to measure any rookie receiver to the kind of season Beckham had in his rookie season, but Pettis is leading him through only two games. Beckham went to have nearly 1,200 yards receiving in the final nine games of his rookie season— something that seems almost impossible for Pettis to keep pace with. Players like Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins were in similar rookie positions as Pettis. Each trying to break in with a veteran receiver still out snapping them. Once Hopkins and Allen started to get more playing time late, and built more trust with their quarterback and coach, they really started to develop— a similar route Pettis could take once he takes over for Pierre Garcon.

As crazy as it may seem, Antonio Brown’s rookie and sophomore seasons seem like a more fair comparison for Pettis. Brown played behind two established receivers, Mike Wallace and Hines Ward. Brown started slow, with only 16 receptions and 167 yards. But once Ben Roethlisberger started to trust Brown, Mike Tomlin found ways to use him in a significant role where he really produced. In Brown’s sophomore season he caught 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games Pettis is on pace for 768 yards and 8 touchdowns. It’s a small sample size, but still encouraging.

Stats aside, Pettis only has three receptions and it’s still early, but he’s showing things you want to see out of a future star receiver.

First and foremost his route running ability has been as advertised. Here he cooks Detroit’s Jalen Tabor to get wide open for an easy pitch from Garoppolo.

Another great route this time against the Vikings 2018 first round pick Mike Hughes.

It’s been impressive to see Pettis look legit vs great secondaries, like he did against Minnesota’s vaunted defense. As for Detroit they’re not a team you think of when you think of dominant secondaries, but they do have Darius Slay and Glover Quin who are arguably two of the most underrated defensive backs in the entire NFL.

Although Pettis has looked great through his first two weeks there has been some expected rookie mistakes like drops and wrong routes, but the most glaring situation surrounding Pettis through the first two weeks is his lack of versatility. Versatility was one of Pettis’s strengths in college, but now he’s really only running out of the slot in his first two contests.

Pettis’s limited alignment may be due to the 49ers injury hampered receiving corp and his lack of experience with Shanahan’s offense. With Marquise Goodwin healthy and the 49ers offense clicking on all cylinders, Pettis’s name could find company with the likes of Brown and Beckham more often.

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