Dante Pettis played just 12 games as a rookie and wasn’t effective in several others because of nagging injuries.
But when he was healthy, he gave the 49ers big hopes that he could become a terrific NFL wide receiver.
Pettis, a second-round pick from Washington, caught 27 of the 45 passes thrown his way, for 467 yards, five touchdowns and a 17.3-yard average per catch.
He had a big day in Game 1 of the season, with two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown, but was injured in Week 2. He didn’t catch another pass until Week 10, but then had several big games, including a five-catch, 129-yard, two-TD performance against the Seahawks in Week 13. Pettis had to sit out the season finale, however, against the Rams.
But the analytic website Pro Football Focus graded Pettis as one of the NFL’s top rookie wide receivers, writing, “Pettis had a strong rookie season, all things considered.” Those things included his injuries and the trio of quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens) to whom he had to adjust.
One stat PFF noted shows Pettis’s potential to be a much bigger part of the passing game in 2019. When 49ers QBs targeted Pettis, their passer rating was 125.7. When you consider those three QBs had passer ratings of 90 (Garoppolo), 81.8 (Beathard) and 90.8 (Mullens), it seems clear that Pettis is a talent worthy of integrating more consistently into the passing game in 2019 – if he can remain healthy.
Late in the season, when Pettis was in the lineup and getting chances, Mullens said his talent was obvious. By that point, he'd learned the system completely and adapted to playing against NFL-caliber defensive backs.
“He’s natural,” said Mullens. “He’s not thinking about it. He’s running his routes and making plays – doing what we love to see him do. We knew since he got here that he has a lot of talent. He does a great job of separating and getting open for us. We’re pumped up for him. It’s awesome.”
There should be a lot of turnover in the wide receiver corps this offseason, with the 49ers adding pass catchers from free agency, the draft or trades (Antonio Brown, anyone?). But Pettis could be a big part of whatever group Kyle Shanahan has to work with.