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Dante Pettis is the Next…? Historical Comparables for the 49ers Rookie WR

San Francisco rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis is next up as we take a look at the most comparable players for the 11 best rookie WRs from the 2018 class.

The 49ers were aggressive in their pursuit of the 23-year old out of Washington, trading the 59th and 74th overall picks in the NFL Draft to move up to 44 and snag him.

But despite being the fourth WR drafted, Pettis ranked:

  • 10th in rookie targets
  • 12th in receptions
  • 9th in expected points
  • 8th in fantasy points
Calvin Ridley 64 92 821 10 150.5 55.6 208.8
D.J. Moore 55 82 788 2 135.1 10.7 160.2
Courtland Sutton 42 84 704 4 136.1 0.3 136.3
Antonio Callaway 43 81 586 5 136.2 -4.6 132.3
Christian Kirk 43 68 590 3 102.7 17.3 123.5
Anthony Miller 33 54 423 7 93.2 24.1 120.3
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 38 72 581 2 113.2 -5.1 111
Dante Pettis 27 45 467 5 75.2 28.5 103.5
Tre’Quan Smith 28 44 427 5 74.2 26.5 100.7
Robert Foster 26 44 522 3 71.5 24.7 96.2

It’s not a great showing for the fourth WR off the board, but the good news is that Pettis was efficient as a rookie, ranking behind only Calvin Ridley in Fantasy Points Over Expectation (reFPOE), while his 10.4 yards per target was second-best in the class behind Robert Foster.


Using inputs of target volume, production, efficiency, age, weight, and draft position, I used the RotoViz Screener to come up with the most similar rookie seasons to Pettis’ since 2000.

download (20)

Given his status as a second-round draft pick, this list is extremely disappointing. Though at 23-years old and 186 pounds, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

Pettis was an elite punt returner in college, but the rest of his profile didn’t suggest a second-round talent. Kevin Cole’s regression tree put him in a node of players with a 2.6 percent chance of achieving a top-24 season within two years.

The result is a best-case comp of Anthony Gonzalez and his Peyton Manning-powered 576-yard rookie season.

What Did They Do in Year 2?

For most of these cohorts, their early years represented the peak before the plunge.

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  • Gonzalez would put up 664 yards in his second year, then … 67 yards combined over his final three years
  • Chris Henry also took a step forward as a sophomore with 605 yards, but would never come close to relevance again
  • Demetrius Williams? He’d put up seasons of 290, 180, and 142 yards before flaming out of the league
  • Jacoby Ford’s rookie season was by far his best
  • Marquise Goodwin is a tantalizing comp, and something close to his fifth-year, 962-yard breakout looks like the ceiling for Pettis


It looks like the 49ers may have reached here.

As we’ll see in upcoming pieces, players like Christian Kirk and Anthony Miller — both of whom San Francisco passed on to draft Pettis — project to be more successful in the NFL.

The good news is that the team may feel compelled to carve out a bigger role to justify trading up for him.

Still, projecting any kind of short-term fantasy impact from Pettis is objectively difficult to do. He’s a clear sell for me.


Check out the top comparables for the rest of this rookie WR class:

11. Michael Gallup

10. Robert Foster

9. Tre’Quan Smith

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