The 49ers selected the 25-year-old Pettis in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington. They were counting on his route running and ability with the ball in his hands to give them the same kind of production they got from Deebo Samuel a year ago, but it never materialized.
Samuel never got going in San Francisco thanks to injuries, some poor play, and other players (like Samuel) seizing their opportunities and never letting go.
But while Pettis didn’t work out in San Francisco, he might still have untapped upside as both a receiver and a returner. He was legitimately dynamic with the ball in his hands at UW, gaining the NCAA record for punt return touchdowns with 9, as well as averaging an absurd 20.4 yards per return as a senior.
Prior to the 2018 draft, I wrote in his scouting report,
As a receiver he is quick, runs good routes, is a reliable “hands” catcher, and a willing blocker on running or screen plays. That alone is enough to get him on the field and producing, but as a physical specimen, he doesn’t leap off the screen, and that is a knock in the eyes of the NFL.
However, his incredible upside as a returner, is going to boost his draft stock. Being able to shrink the field before the offense even steps on it is a valuable talent. Being able to score on special teams is gold in the NFL, and Pettis is the best in NCAA history at it.
Injuries, of course, remain a concern with Pettis, who suffered a grade 2 pedal ankle sprain in college as well as a trio of right knee injuries in the NFL.
Pettis has largely been seen as a slot receiver in the NFL, and it will be interesting to see how he is incorporated into a Giants’ offense that is already well-stocked in the slot position.
The Giants have received a roster exemption from the NFL while Pettis is in the six-day COVID-19 protocol. He will likely be formally added to the roster on Monday or Tuesday.