No. 1: 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis
Dante Pettis, the third-year veteran out of Washington, is the most unlikely receiver of the group to emerge as the go-to guy.
Given the way he played in 2018, it was easy to speculate 2019 would be his breakout season. In 2019 he caught 11 of 24 targets for an uninspiring 109 yards and two touchdowns, hardly a breakout. Sure, he bounced back from injury, but he never found his way back into head coach Kyle Shanahan’s heart.
Pettis does not appear to be aggressive enough for Shanahan’s system. Pettis has a strong lead-off, but he won’t press his blocks and he doesn’t attack the ball the way Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne do.
So why is he listed here? One word: necessity.
Unless the 49ers bring in a seasoned wide receiver, this is it. Aside from Bourne, Pettis and Trent Taylor, the Niners are looking at either recently drafted rookies, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings, or Jalen Hurd, who sat out his entire rookie season last year after getting injured in the preseason in Denver.
First-year receivers tend to advance slowly as they get their feet under them in the NFL. Aiyuk, Jennings and Hurd will have a steep climb for any of them to emerge as viable and dependable receiving threats this coming season.
While any of the three are capable of rising to the task, the most likely would be Aiyuk given sheer talent and Shanahan’s apparent affinity for him.