San Francisco 49ers: Wide receiver Dante Pettis could be a starter… in 2019

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images /

Although wide receiver Dante Pettis has been a revelation during training camp, Niner Noise explains why his ascent to the San Francisco 49ers starting lineup won’t be happening until 2019.

If there has been one big winner from the San Francisco 49ers‘ 2018 training camp, it has been rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis. From shifty releases to contested grabs, Pettis has established himself as a player to watch in the nearby future.

However, that future won’t start until next year. Although head coach Kyle Shanahan will definitely use Pettis to spell some of the other receivers on the roster, 2019 should be the year 49ers fans expect Pettis to make a huge jump.

Pettis’s situation is closely connected to veteran wideout Pierre Garcon‘s. The 49ers have shown no signs of making Pettis a primarily slot receiver, although he can certainly play there. Because of fellow receiver Marquise Goodwin‘s age and rapport with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Pettis will be competing for one spot in the starting lineup, which happens to be Garcon’s.

Because of this close connection to Garcon, 2019 proves to be the first opportunity Pettis will have to crack the lineup, unless an injury occurs.

Giving Pierre Garcon a chance

The first reason why Pettis won’t be starting until 2019 is to give Garcon a chance to show his effectiveness with Jimmy G. One of the only disappointments of Garoppolo’s five-game blitz to close out 2017 was that he couldn’t play with Garcon, who was on injured reserve with a neck injury at the time.

Now the 49ers staff will naturally put the best players out there, and until proven otherwise, that is Garcon.

Garcon has been a reliable receiver for the better part of the last five years, as Pro Football Focus described:

For a 49ers team that was tied for the second most dropped passes with 29 last season, this is an invaluable trait. Pettis had the same sure-handedness in college, but as we all now, the pro game is a major step up.

Apart from drops, Garcon is a perfect fit for Garoppolo. According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN (h/t 49ers Webzone), “Garcon and Garoppolo should be able to get on the same page in relatively short order given Garcon’s intermediate route-running ability and Garoppolo’s accuracy on such throws.”

Considering how Dante Pettis has seemingly struggled on passes over the middle, this is one area where Garcon clearly outplays him.

Garcon’s contract

Another reason why Garcon won’t be displaced until the 2019 season is his contract. Even though general manager John Lynch and Co. have shown in the past that they don’t care about the money, for example the Jeremy Kerley situation, Garcon might be the exception.

For starters, he’s still useful. All points mentioned above still matter. Even if Garcon gets demoted in 2019, his skills as a tough receiver don’t go away..

However, Garcon’s contract does allow for a potential out in 2019 and beyond. Per Spotrac, cutting Garcon next year would lead to minimal cap benefits, but he would be off the books from the future on. In 2020, though, Garcon’s release would save over $6 million dollars on the cap.

Because of the structure of his contract, Garcon will be staying on the 49ers this year and likely 2019. Next year, there could be a open competition for the position. If Pettis wins, the 49ers could either cut Garcon or keep him for one more year as veteran insurance before cutting ties with him.

In 2020, the 49ers will need cap space to extend defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, among others.

Next. Dante Pettis: Why 49ers WR is a player to watch in training camp. dark

For Pettis, this year will be about him developing and getting up to NFL speed. He’ll be able to be subbed in and give Garcon a rest.

So, 49er fans, wait for 2019. The team would have one year to evaluate the “Triple G” squad (Garoppolo, Goodwin and Garcon). Pettis should develop enough to force the Niners to make a decision.

That’s when we could see him really break out.