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Is Dante Pettis the Player to Own in San Francisco?

At RotoBaller, we share your passion and dedication toward constructing the best possible rosters in every format that is available for members of the fantasy community. That is why we maintain our ongoing commitment toward providing a massive array of valuable statistics, comprehensive analysis, and thoroughly researched recommendations. This includes our collection of articles on specific players for you to target, which is designed to help you build league-winning rosters in 2019.

As you consider numerous options during your feverish preparations for upcoming drafts, a San Francisco offense that was devastated by a seemingly endless series of injuries in 2018 now provides renewed hope in the form of appealing possibilities. Even though Jimmy Garoppolo's return from a torn ACL supplies a reason for optimism, challenges remain when analyzing which players from this unit should be targeted. This is due to the uncertainty that engulfs the 49ers' plan for deploying three members of its congested backfield, while the composition of the depth chart at wide receiver is also unclear.

This article will assist your decision-making process at one of those positions, by projecting the usage and output for Dante Pettis. He is currently a prime contender to seize responsibilities as San Francisco's WR1, which will enhance his status as an enticing component for your roster if he can secure that role.

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From Shattered Expectations to Renewed Optimism 

Exactly one year ago, the excitement was escalating for a San Francisco offense that would be schematically engineered by Kyle Shanahan and spearheaded on the field by Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Patriot’s encouraging performance during the final five weeks of 2017 included a 308 yards-per-game average that elevated the 49ers’ passing attack by an additional 88 yards-per-game.

Marquise Goodwin was also functioning as the team’s WR1 during that five-game sequence and averaged 106 yards-per-game from Weeks 13-15. But all optimism that had been building throughout the 2018 offseason was obliterated by a massive collection of injuries that ravaged the offensive unit and eliminated the opportunity for what was becoming a highly-anticipated statistical bonanza. Garoppolo missed 13 games due to his injury, while a cluster of problems (quad/hamstring/calf/family matter) limited Goodwin to 11 games, and Pierre Garcon was sidelined for eight weeks with a blend of shoulder and knee issues.

San Francisco ultimately averaged 242 yards-per-game through the air, and no 49er wide receiver finished among the top 60 in fantasy scoring. However, George Kittle ascended into undisputed status as an elite tight end amid the ongoing carnage that affixed Garoppolo and multiple wide receivers to the sidelines, as he led the team in targets (136), receptions (88) and receiving yards (1,377). The absence of Goodwin and Garcon also presented Pettis with an opportunity to vault into temporary responsibilities as the 49ers’ top option at his position. After a largely undistinguished rookie year from Weeks 2-11, he capitalized on his expanded usage with enough proficiency to validate the belief that he will place a stranglehold on that WR1 role this season.


Late-Season Production Provides a Glimpse Into 2019       

After generating 61 yards and a score during his professional debut, Pettis was limited to a grand total of five receptions for 47 yards until Week 12. That included a three-game stretch in which he was sidelined with a troublesome left knee before his target-per-game average soared to 6.2 from Weeks 10-16. Pettis also commandeered seven targets during three consecutive contests (Weeks 12-14) which ignited his production for an encouraging four-game sequence that included four of his five touchdowns, 338 of his 467 yards, and an average of 84.5 per game.

Even though an MCL issue forced him from San Francisco's Week 16 matchup, his surge in production provided owners with an enticing option during the fantasy postseason, and his late-season production created an escalating value that has not subsided during the offseason. This is underscored by his ADP, which is rising steadily toward Round 6.

Pettis' potential to generate big plays was partially revealed by his nine receptions of 20+ yards. which helped propel him to a desirable 17.3 yards-per-catch average. His 7.6 yard-after-catch per-reception average (YAC/R) was exceeded by just three other wide receivers throughout the league, and he still managed to tie Kittle for the team lead in touchdowns despite his condensed season.

He also performed on 90.2% of the offensive snaps from Weeks 12-15 before his abrupt departure from the lineup and his favorable assortment of skills should help a similar level throughout the year. He already possesses the ability to operate as a dynamic route runner who can prevail in his matchups through his excellent footwork, acceleration, and explosiveness. His ability to secure separation will be enhanced by Shanahan, who will schematically place Pettis in a position to flourish.


Pettis Is The Player To Own

All of these factors combine for Pettis to match or exceed the favorable snap count and target averages that he experienced late last season. This will enable him to lead a refurbished and potentially productive arsenal of receiving weaponry that can be utilized by a healthy Garoppolo. Newcomers Deebo Samuel and Jaylen Hurd will join Goodwin in comprising the depth chart immediately below Pettis, as Garcon has long since been jettisoned from the equation.

The 6’0”, 210-pound Samuel should infuse a level of toughness to the receiving unit. The combination of his route running and effectiveness in open space will also keep him on the field with regularity. He should elevate beyond Goodwin on the depth chart after Goodwin’s overall numbers declined appreciably during his shortened season, and his yard-per-game average also diminished by nearly 25 yards (60.1/35.9).

Kendrick Bourne actually led 49er wide receivers in yards last season (487), as he barely edged Pettis in that category. But he has descended down the depth chart following the new additions to the roster. Jordan Matthews was also signed to a one-year contract, although he must now earn a roster spot.

Even though Samuel should eventually secure San Francisco’s WR2 responsibilities, Pettis has already demonstrated his capabilities to thrive as the primary wide receiver in Shanahan’s attack and is the definitive frontrunner to continue in that capacity.

He should accumulate a desirable target total as he operates with Kittle as the team’s primary receiving weapons, while a combination of Pettis' attributes and play calling that is designed to place him in space will result in output that owners can rely on. An average that resides between 6.5-7 targets-per game would place him just above 100 targets. That would enable him to accumulate around 60 receptions, assemble 800+ yards and average 14.1 yards-per-catch.

When you consider the nightmarish aspect of an overcrowded backfield that could deliver consistent agony to perplexed owners of Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, and Matt Breida, then it becomes even more apparent that Pettis supplies you with the best option (beyond Kittle) to actively target during your draft process.

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