SF 49ers: Tracing Dante Pettis’ decline from starter to regular inactive

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis (18) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis (18) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

After a lot of optimism during training camp, Dante Pettis completely fell off the depth chart. Let’s figure out what happened.

SF 49ers fans are asking the “five ‘W’ questions” for receiver Dante Pettis:

  1. Who’s going to replace him?
  2. What happened within the last three months?
  3. Where do the 49ers and Pettis go from here?
  4. When does it happen?
  5. But most importantly, why did Pettis and the Niners just seem to give up?

Though we can’t answer all of them, here’s a brief timeline of Pettis’ career with the SF 49ers.

Drafted by SF 49ers

Pettis was taken by the 49ers in the second round, 44th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Washington.

There was lots of upside to drafting the speedy receiver, including being a threat on special teams. SF 49ers debated putting him in as punt returner this year.

Rookie year: 2018

In what’s turned out to be his most productive season in red and gold, Pettis hauled in 27 passes for 467 yards and five touchdowns. He played in a career-high 12 games while starting in seven.

He also returned nine punts for 27 yards total. In university, he was known for his punt returns, so it was encouraging to see him play a role he was familiar with.

Pettis also suffered a knee injury that hampered his rookie season.

Second-year pro: 2019

This is when things started taking a turn for the worst for Pettis. He scored a game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the season and scored once more.

Then nothing.

He ended the season with 11 receptions for 109 yards. Pettis also proved he can throw the ball, tossing a 16-yard pass to go 100 percent on the season. If the SF 49ers need an emergency quarterback, they have one on the roster.

But the most surprising stat for Pettis was not being active for the Super Bowl. He hasn’t recovered from this.

During the season, the SF 49ers traded for star receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders took control of the locker room and provided a huge boost to a struggling group of players.

The emergence of rookie receiver Deebo Samuel also proved the 49ers could do without Pettis.

But he still had a chance to get his act together for the 2020 season.

Third-year pro: 2020

Five weeks into the new season, and Pettis was officially inactive against the Miami Dolphins. This came as a surprise considering there was lots of noise surrounding him in training camp.

During training camp, lots of 49ers reporters, players, and coaches were feeling positive about Pettis assuming a bigger role in the offense and on special teams.

There seemed to be a confident connection between him and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Niner fans were lead to believe Pettis turned a corner and was on his way to stardom. Heck, even I threw him in as a starter.

But like the rest of the 49ers season so far, the Pettis experiment has turned into a debacle.

The fallout/what’s next?

So what exactly happened to the once-promising receiver?

He could’ve fit in well with Samuel and rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk. He could’ve helped anyone of the struggling quarterbacks like Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, and C.J. Beathard.

Well, it seems like there’s no trust in the triangle of Garoppolo, Pettis, and head coach Kyle Shanahan. Whether it be Shanahan not drawing up plays for Pettis, or Garoppolo not even trying to find him.

It’s certainly a head-scratcher and something we may never fully know the whole story to. Remember there are always two sides to everything.

“Okay, but are they going to trade or release him?” You’re most likely asking. And honestly, who knows? The way the 2020 season is turning out, he could be trade bait for a team that needs a wide receiver (New York Jets). But he could also be useful if receivers start going down to injuries.

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It’s tough to see a guy with lots of talent and potential go to waste. Whether it’s because the SF 49ers aren’t using him properly or it’s because Pettis just isn’t digging it anymore.

With the trade deadline a few weeks away, we’ll wait and see what happens to Dante Pettis.