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Giants 2021 roster profile: WR Dante Pettis

After failing with 49ers, Pettis trying to take advantage of second chance

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Dante Pettis catches a touchdown pass last season vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are Dante Pettis’s rebound team. After failing with the San Francisco 49ers, the Giants have given the 2018 second-round pick an opportunity to revive his flagging NFL career. Can he take advantage of it?

Let’s take a look at Pettis as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp in a few weeks.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 195
Age: 25
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: 3
Contract: Final year of four-year, $6.4 million rookie contract | 2021 cap hit: $1.353 million

Career to date

After a collegiate career at Washington that saw him catch 163 passes in 52 games and set an NCAA record with nine punt returns for touchdowns, the 49ers made Pettis the 44th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Pettis never came close to showing the kind of game-changing ability with the 49ers that he had with the Huskies.

As a rookie in 2018, he caught 27 passes. Seeing less playing time and far fewer balls thrown his way in 2019, he caught only 11 passes. In 2020, he did not have a catch in five games with the 49ers before being waived and claimed by the Giants.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan seemed to quickly run out of patience with Pettis. The last straw appeared to come in a 2019 Week 10 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Targeted three times, Pettis had two drops and no catches. He never played again that season. He played 66 snaps without a catch last season before San Francisco waived him.

Here is what a perturbed Shanahan said about Pettis after Pettis’ two drops in the 2019 game vs. the Seahawks:

“The more he doesn’t take advantage of his opportunities, the less opportunities he gets, ... He did get a couple last night because of injury and I didn’t think he made them. We’ll see how this week goes. Dante has the ability, but we’re waiting for him to pick it up and have the consistency and take advantage of some of these opportunities he’s gotten.”

Pettis had to wait for his opportunity with the Giants, one that finally came in Week 16. Over the final two games of the season, Pettis caught four passes in five targets for 76 yards (19.0 per catch) with one touchdown.

It was a small but intriguing sample size that has led to Pettis getting a full opportunity with the Giants in 2021.

2021 outlook

If they are all healthy, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney are locks to make the 53-man roster.

Pettis, John Ross, C.J. Board, Austin Mack and any of the other receivers in camp who impress will be competing for one or two remaining roster spots.

Ross, whose resume includes a 4.22 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine and virtually no NFL production, is often thought of as a roster lock. Is that really, however, the case? He has 51 catches in four seasons, only two in 2020. Oft-injured, he has only played double-digit games once in his career. He has never made it through a full season.

Mack is a player admired by head coach Joe Judge and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert for both his blocking and his reliability.

Board is not a dynamic receiver, but he is valued by the Giants for his ability on kickoff and punt coverage teams. He can also fill in as a punt and kickoff returner.

Where does that leave Pettis?

Realistically, in a training camp competition the outcome of which is unknown right now. Pettis does have the advantage of having worked with the Giants last season, and having shown the coaching staff some play-making ability.

Pettis’ career average of 15.5 yards per catch is also higher than Ross’s 14.4 yards per catch despite a 4.53 40 time that is more than three-tenths of a second slower.

In my post-minicamp 53-man roster projection, I had Pettis making the cut. Will that be right? As of now, your guess is as good as mine.