After going with stand out tackle Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame with their first round selection, the 49ers decided to continue to address the offensive side of the ball moving up to draft wide receiver Dante Pettis out of the University of Washington with the 44th overall selection. San Francisco traded away the 59th and 74th picks to the Washington Redskins for picks 44 and 142. He will be joining a receiver group that includes Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne and Victor Bolden Jr.
While he didn’t put up a eye popping numbers, Pettis had a memorable college career while at Washington, hauling in 163 receptions for 2,256 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns. In addition to his receiving statistics, he was a dynamic on special teams, breaking the FBS record for most punt returns for touchdowns with nine in total. He received the top rated grade among punt returners per PFF in his senior season, returning 21 punts for 428 yards (averaging 20.4) and 4 touchdowns.
Pettis is an ideal versatile receiver for the 49ers as he is able to lineup in multiple different positions on the field. The son of former major league baseball outfielder Gary Pettis, Dante displays similar athletic ability, he is a natural receiver who uses his hands and doesn’t rely on his body often to bring in catches. Per PFF, he only dropped 3 out 64 catch-able targets last year.
Pettis’ size does not stand out, but head coach Kyle Shanahan prioritises those who can separate on a regular basis with their route running over those who can win contested catches or separate at the catch point. This is where Pettis excelled, as the former finalist for the Paul Hornung award (most versatile player in the Nation) is viewed by many scouts as the top route runner in this year’s draft class. Pettis runs a complete route tree and is also a willing blocker and he uses his speed and quickness to make game changing plays when the defender bites on a sudden double move. The same speed and quickness that makes his route running ability so effective also ensures he is dangerous after the catch. His run after catch ability might be his biggest strength as he is able to navigate in the open field and cut right past defenders in a flash.
Pettis will need to add some overall strength to succeed at the next level as he struggled at times with his release at the line of scrimmage, but this is something that Kyle Shanahan can also help him with by schematically ensuring he doesn’t face too much press coverage.
What can be guaranteed, is that his special teams skills ensure he will get onto the field in San Francisco relatively quickly and could relieve Trent Taylor of punt returning duties. Based on his size, many analysts may speculate that he will be just a slot receiver but I believe he has the ability to line up outside as well and dominate.
*Main Image courtesy of USA Today
*Youtube Video courtesy of UW Athletics