Why Dante Pettis could be the reason Kyle Shanahan passes on WR Jerry Jeudy
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
When relationships go poorly and come to an end, each party always looks for the opposite of their former partner in their future one. There's normally a certain trait that led to the separation and each side looks to upgrade on that area the next time around. It doesn't matter if it's a personal or a professional connection, this is usually the case.
As I went back and started watching every Jimmy Garoppolo passing attempt in 2019, there was one thing that struck me: wideout Dante Pettis was a focal point of the offense early in the season. Yes, the same receiver that was deemed inactive for the Super Bowl and watched the game in a sweatsuit.
Whenever he lined up in the slot, the former Washington receiver was nearly un-guardable, as his unique route running ability was quite effective. There was a fluidity in his routes that the other 49ers' receivers just don't possess.
Pettis was normally the first receiver out on the field during pre-game warmups this past season, sporting his gold game pants, along with a white 49ers' tee. He would catch passes from the coaches and I would always watch him run and wonder how any defensive back could stay in front of his deceptiveness.
During the early-season games against the Steelers and Browns, head coach Kyle Shanahan chose to trust Pettis to make plays in tight situations and the third-year receiver came up empty in those big spots.
As the season went on, rookie Deebo Samuel began to earn more snaps, while his toughness and sheer willpower to make plays began to win over his teammates. Pettis was officially in Kyle Shanahan's dog house after an offseason of passive aggressive motivation tactics and early struggles.
Now to Alabama's Jerry Jeudy. The wideout his widely considered one of the top-two receiving prospects and has been connected to Shanahan due to his fluid route running and ability to separate from defenders with ease -- a Kyle Shanahan staple.
As I watched all his snaps against LSU, South Carolina and Auburn from this season and Clemson last season, it was evident how easily Jeudy can lose a defender in space. Most of the time, the Alabama wideout had enough space around him to set up a picnic before making the catch. Taking most of his snaps from the slot, Jeudy's wiggle allowed him to usually send defenders in the wrong direction.
But there was something missing from Jeudy's game. He was often poor in tight, contested situations over the middle, allowing the defender to make a play. He wasn't as good of a blocker as I expected in running situations. After the catch, I wasn't as impressed with the Alabama receiver, even though his yards after the catch number was high.
There were two major numbers that popped out to me:
Drop Rate -- 8.3%
Yards After Catch per Reception -- 7.8 (T-40th)
For comparison, here are Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb's numbers:
Drop Rate -- 4.5%
Yards After Catch per Reception -- 11.0 (5th)
These were areas that Lamb was significantly better than Jeudy and two metrics that San Francisco really value in a receiver. Here's a few examples from Alabama's game against LSU, where Jeudy struggled going over the middle.
In this first play, Jeudy is lined up the slot, running a slant to the middle of the field. The Alabama receiver can see the LSU safety coming from his single-high spot in the middle of the field and looks to be more worried about taking the hit, rather than making the catch.
In this next play, Jeudy lines up outside and is being covered by the LSU corner in press-man coverage, but is unable to fight through the initial contact to make the catch, looking for a flag instead.
The more I watched Jerry Jeudy, I see the same strengths as Dante Pettis, but some of the same weaknesses too. While I think the Nick Saban product will be more productive in the NFL, I could see the 49ers pointing to Pettis' failures as a reason of concern for drafting Jeudy.
When I spoke to a NFL receivers' coach about what causes rookie wide receivers to fail, he mentioned the lack of toughness and effort as a major factor. It's the two things that have plagued Pettis early in his career and could it be Jeudy's shortcoming on the field too?\
San Francisco has prided themselves on the likes of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel -- two players that live in the middle of the field, play with no fear and refuse to go down after the catch. Those aren't traits I can confidently say that in see in the Alabama receiver, especially in the biggest moments when his team needed him.
As the Shanahan-Pettis relationship likely comes to an end this offseason, the 49ers will look to replace him with another rookie prospect. San Francisco traded up in the 2018 NFL Draft to move in the second round to select Pettis and now they've been burned in this relation. Will the 49ers' head coach look for the opposite, as he tries to find his next receiving partner?
Source: Brad Kelly for the All-22 Film on Jerry Jeudy
Source: Brad Graham for the Cover Photo