49ers: What went wrong with Dante Pettis in 2019?

49ers, Dante Pettis (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
49ers, Dante Pettis (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers offense was one of the best in the NFL this year. They had many breakout stars, but one potential star in Dante Pettis struggled. So what happened with this youngster who just can’t seem to live up to his hype?

Back in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers drafted a wide receiver out of Washington. Dante Pettis was a slim 6-foot-1, 195-pound kid, who had shown the potential to become a real star in the league.

Unfortunately due to a knee injury in his rookie year, he never had the chance to prove he belongs. But during the first few games of the 2019 season, Pettis was given more opportunity.

During the 49ers bye week, I provided hope and optimism that Pettis could become the star 49ers fans wanted to see. Now, after the team had such a successful year, we’re here scratching our heads trying to figure out what happened.

In 2018 Pettis had 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns. He appeared in 12 games while starting in seven of them. He was targeted 45 times for a catch percentage of 60. Keep in mind this was his rookie season.

These are pretty decent numbers, especially when your team is missing its starting quarterback.

This past season, however, nothing went right for Dante Pettis. He started in only four games, played in 11 and was targeted 24 times. Of those targets, he only caught 11 passes for 109 yards. His completion percentage was down significantly from the previous year at 45.8 percent.

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He was the only receiver on the 49ers roster to have a completion percentage under 60. The most significant stat is his three dropped balls. If you’re looking for a positive in his stats, he did throw one pass for 16 yards.

Before the Niners traded for receiver Emmanuel Sanders, it seemed like the offense was only going to be one dimensional. And let’s face it, head coach Kyle Shanahan made it that way. He couldn’t trust his receivers to catch anything thrown their way.

However, when you have a three-headed monster on the running back position, why wouldn’t you run around the field every single game?

With Pettis, every drop, every tipped ball, every time he just didn’t catch a pass thrown his way, it was all scrutinized. Was it because Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t trust him?

Well, no. Back in Week 3, after Pettis caught the game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, both Shanahan and Garoppolo praised Pettis:

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Was Pettis’ lack of production due to the team going out and getting Sanders? Did the deal hurt his confidence and he felt his season was already over by then? Could he still be thinking of his knee injury and not wanting to risk getting hurt again?

There are so many questions, which we may never get an answer to.

Pettis is an extremely skilled athlete. There’s a reason he went in the second round of the NFL Draft. He’s a fairly big body when he goes up for the ball. He gets off the line well and has the speed to match or be better than the best corners in the league.

If Pettis doesn’t get traded this offseason, he’s going to have to work his tail off during training camp. There’s a good chance the 49ers look at either drafting a wide receiver with the 31st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft or take a look at the receivers available in free agency.

He still has a few years remaining on his contract and has one of the better quarterbacks in the league who could help him.

The thing we need to remind ourselves is he’s only 24-years-old. Yes, there are high expectations, especially in a complicated but successful Shanahan offense. However, we need to give him another chance to prove himself.

Imagine sweep plays with him and receiver Deebo Samuel both using their speed to change the pace of the game. Picture Pettis and Samuel opposite each other down the line and giving defenses nightmares.

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Dante Pettis has a lot of upside to him. This time next year we could be talking about him being in consideration for Comeback Player of the Year.