Dante Pettis worked his way into the doghouse in 2019. In his second season, the 49ers wide receiver was expected to emerge as an effective, every-down pass-catcher.
Instead, he regressed.
Early in the season, Pettis – a second-round pick in 2018 -- was getting plenty of opportunities. In some games in September and October, Pettis was playing 60 to 90 percent of all offensive snaps. By the end of the season, he was in single digits or on the bench. Overall, Pettis played just 29.4 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
Pettis played just 11 games in his second pro season after appearing in 12 as a rookie. In 2018, Pettis was targeted 45 times, had 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns. That production fell to 24 targets, 11 catches, 109 yards and two scores in 2019. His yards per catch also fell drastically, from 17.3 yards to 9.9.
After a November game in which Pettis had zero catches on three targets – including a crucial drop in overtime in a loss to Seattle – head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters he wanted more from Pettis.
"He’s had a number of opportunities," Shanahan told The Athletic. "And I’m one of the guys who believe in him the most. That’s why he’s here. He’s had his opportunities. The more he doesn’t take advantage of his opportunities, the less opportunities he gets."
Now, as the 49ers start work toward 2020, San Francisco wants to upgrade its receiving corps. That could come through free agency or the draft. It also could come through improvement by players already on the roster, with Pettis and Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd (both injured all of 2019).
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week, Shanahan said he still has hope Pettis can turn the corner and become an impact player. Shanahan compared Pettis to cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who had a horrible season in 2018 but bounced back this past season.
"I want to see when he comes back that while he was away he’s been on a mission," Shanahan said of Pettis. "I think that’s what some guys go through. I think Dante did that more his rookie year, trying to make the league.
"He took a documented step back in his second year, which I’ve been around a lot of players who have done that. And the players I’ve been around – which is a ton – they go one way or the other. They keep being like that and they usually filter out, or it’s a wake-up call."