• Will Harris

Dante Pettis Puff Piece

Has it gotten to that lull point in the off-season that the fantasy football community is now talking about San Francisco 49er WR Dante Pettis!? Let’s quickly recap what the fantasy world has occupied itself with during the months of April-August:

1) Calvin Ridley Hype Circus

2) DiontBAE Mania

3) C.E.H vs Jonathon Taylor

4) Tyler Higbee a 4th Round TE?

5) Is cereal considered soup?

6) A.J Dillon calf pics

I’m sure there is a hype train or workout video that I’ve left off.

The reality is when the pads are put on, and actual football starts being played, a lot of our conjecture and assumptions go out of the window. Coaches change the roles of players, players are used differently in a new system, and, inevitably as it is a contact sport, injuries mount up.

That’s why we are talking about the polarizing WR that plays for the 49ers, Dante Pettis. Pettis has now become relevant again with unexpected injuries to WR Deebo Samuel to start the offseason, and, on Day 1 of training camp, to intriguing hybrid WR/RB Jalen Hurd, who went down with a confirmed tear to his ACL. Pettis who was an afterthought for the 2019 49ers is back at the forefront of the WR conversation. The former second rounder is readily available in dynasty leagues on waivers and in the last rounds of your season long drafts.

Why Should I Care?

Full disclosure: I can understand why you wouldn’t want to care about Dante Pettis. He teased many fantasy footballers after finishing his rookie season on a tear, posting an average of 15.94 PPR from weeks 12-16, with a monster performance in Week 13 vs Seattle posting 29.7 PPR, with 129 yards and 2 TDs.

Pettis’ season long metrics had people wondering if San Francisco had found themselves a bonafide #1 WR. With limited target share, Pettis had put up top ten WR metrics in YPR (17.3 YPR) good for #5 in the league and #9 in yards per target (10.4 YPT). To put it into perspective, this was in the same range as Mike Evans (17.7 YPR) and Tyreek Hill (17 YPR). This is lofty company to be among , but let’s keep in mind that Robert Foster finished the 2018 season on a tear posting a 20 YPR and is barely holding on to a job in the league. Hence, you can understand why the outlook was extremely polarizing.

Looking back at Myfantasyleague data, Pettis routinely was drafted anywhere among the top 50 picks to past the top 150 in dynasty start-up drafts, making him a truly polarizing player in drafts. True to Twitter form, Pettis experienced a mid July ADP “bump” because of the hype that was being generated around him on various social media platforms and what he accomplished at the end of the regular season. The jury was split on Pettis and what we were to make of his breakout rookie games and how to properly set expectations for 2019.

Then, similar to what we are experiencing now, coaches start implementing new systems and new plays. Injuries happen. New personnel are added to the team through the draft (Deebo Samuel). The roster and what we thought was going to happen in July didn’t go as planned. Shanahan’s off-season “motivation” plan for Pettis didn’t motivate the budding WR. Pettis started the season off with a lousy snap share (3.4%) and a groin injury vs Tampa Bay that was attributed to coming to camp out of shape. Clearly not the breakout performance or conditioning that many envisioned for a top 25 drafted WR. In a situation in San Francisco that was calling for WRs, Pettis’ lack of motivation and start to the season was less than ideal.

It was clear in the following games that all confidence had been lost by Kyle Shanahan and, maybe, by the player himself.

This lack of confidence was confirmed when the 49ers traded 2020 3rd and 4th round picks for veteran Emmanuel Sanders before their Week 4 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sanders seamlessly slid into the offense and soaked up a 78.7% snap share for the rest of the season making Pettis nearly irrelevant in the 49ers Super Bowl run.

Why Now?

I’m not going to beat my chest for Pettis. I’ve always focused on value drafting, and adapting your drafting process as situations evolve. Pettis is a prime example of that. You can hold onto the hate for Pettis from his epic Agoholoring of the 2019 season, or, you can look at the new situation developing in San Francisco.

Gone are two instrumental Shanahan pieces to start the season in Hurd and Deebo. Emmanuel Sanders signed as a free-agent in New Orleans. . Rookie Brandon Aiyuk looks to command a prominent role in the offense and we know that George Kittle is going to put in work. After Aiyuk and Kittle who remains? Dart throws. You can take your pick among Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Richie James Jr, Shawn Poindexter, rookie Jauan Jennings, Tavon Austin, and the ghost of JJ Nelson. And, of course, Dante Pettis.

What Do We Know

We know that at one point, the Niners braintrust had faith in Pettis after trading up to draft him 48th overall in the 2018 draft. There was that 15 TD season for the Washington Huskies that probably played a large role in his selection by the 49ers.

Pettis was the most productive when being fed the ball. In his relevant fantasy weeks in 2018 (Weeks 12-16), he was productive when being on the field (79.44% snap share) and commanded a 19% target share (6.2 tgts/game). Will the 49ers funnel passes to Pettis with the injuries to Hurd and Deebo? The smart thinking here, and given the history of the Shanahan relationship with Pettis, is no. Pettis was stripped of all special teams’ duties even though at Washington he holds an NCAA record with 9 special teams TDs. Shanahan was quoted as saying “We didn’t think he was our best guy” after being replaced by Richie James. Ouch!

The most likely scenario is an increased target share for George Kittle (7.6 p/g), Aiyuk stepping into the vacated Deebo role, and, maybe, just maybe, Pettis will get a shot Weeks 1-2 before a Deebo return. A healthy Jerick McKinnon might also be utilized similarly to how Shanahan had envisioned using Jalen Hurd as their skill sets are extremely similar.

Could you do worse than taking a flyer on a 24-year old former second rounder who is probably on waivers in your dynasty leagues? Even with the recent injury news of Hurd, Pettis’ ADP in high stakes drafts on the FFPC is still north of pick 200. Will Pettis break out in 2020 like he was supposed to after his 2018 rookie season or will he disappoint again as he did in 2019? The fear and loathing of Dante Pettis is certainly real, and, I’ve written this article to provide the data and insights for you to make an informed decision for yourself for your fantasy teams.

“I know a lot of people have soured on him, but we haven’t. He didn’t come to camp ready to play last year physically, and we challenged him. That’s got to change. We believe if he does that, he’s a guy who can really excel in our offense.” – John Lynch, GM, San Francisco 49ers

Author: Will Harris (@itsharristime)

Editor: Joe "OG" Simonetti (@JoeSimonetti77)