Washington wide receiver and punt returner Dante Pettis had a great career for the Huskies. How does he project as his game moves to the NFL? While his return talent is world class, he’ll be able to earn a starting job as an NFL receiver if the team pays attention to what he does on offense. Pettis has the athletic ability and refined route running to be a key contributor on an NFL offense on Sundays. Here’s his scouting report, with the assistance of some clips by Brad Kelly:
Career: 52 GP, 163 rec, 2256 yds, 24 TDs, 90 punt returns, 1274 yds (14.2 avg), 9 TDs
2017: 63 rec, 761 yds, 7 TDs, 21 punt returns, 428 yds (20.4 avg), 4 TDs
Accolades and off-field notes
2017 Consensus All-American
Owns NCAA career punt return TD record (9)
Senior Bowl invitee
Ankle injury in 2017, did not finish game
Medical exemption from Senior Bowl, did not work out at Combine
6 feet 0.5 inches tall, 186 pounds, 9.5 inch hands, 32.25 inch arms
Pettis is a very savvy blocker. He is undersized, but understands angles and where his opponents will end up.
He doesn’t have the bulk to sustain blocks but gives great effort to get into a position to make a difference and create whatever opening is possible, especially if he can use his opponent’s own momentum as a tool.
Pettis is an all-star punt returner. He owns the NCAA career record for punt return touchdowns with nine. With a great combination of speed, agility, and vision, he has recorded some eye-popping paths to the end zone during his time at Washington.
The qualities that make him an effective returner show up around his skillset – he skillfully weaves through traffic in zone coverage, measures up the angles of incoming defenders, and has the short area quickness to stretch a catch into a big play in the open field. His flexibility helps him create some absurd cuts.
Lastly, pay attention to Pettis' bend throughout this rep.— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) February 10, 2018
Maintains balance, immediate post then corner double move.
This ability in the air is so rare. The explosiveness to rise, the extension to the ball, flipping his hips while airborne to protect tuck from DB's.
Pettis’s route running shows significant development. He sells deep routes with a strong stride and has some very pretty footwork off the line of scrimmage, with multiple releases developed. He has a moderate double move and can hand check against press coverage without getting jammed.
Dead leg release. Uses his upper body pliability to lean back and keep chestplate clean.— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) February 10, 2018
Perfect hand usage - hand on CB's elbow controls the DB's inside arm - follows through and "Wipes Past" his back hip to assure no contact through re-stem pic.twitter.com/PGNSEBlQoY
Pettis catches with his hands away from his body and does a great job bringing passes back to his chest quickly after grabbing with outstretched arms. He can leap to catch passes that are off-target. His excellent balance allows him to contort for difficult catches without losing his foot placement near the sidelines.
Closes on CB, sunken hips before "Chair" route— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) February 10, 2018
Flips his hips to attack ball with CB on his back. Slight hand usage to keep separation from CB, look at Pettis' eyes focus on the ball all the way into his hands pic.twitter.com/pwrMyJtR3j
Pettis has great speed paired with sudden acceleration. He’s not a speed demon, but he will still be a deep threat in any offense.
Pettis steps on DB's toes with active "4 Step" release and arms pumping.— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) February 10, 2018
Keeps his shoulders clean from press hands by pulling his inside arm back towards LOS.
Stop-Start explosiveness to create separation of breakpoint pic.twitter.com/akdC3WWAQL
More than any part of his game, what impresses me about Pettis is his feel for the sport and the speed of his processor. He reads defenders and blockers to set up effective angles after the catch, does the same work when blocking for a teammate, and shows attention to detail in his route running.
Some teams will project Pettis purely as a slot receiver, and I think that would be the most productive way to use him on the field, but he can cover a broader spectrum of responsibilities. Think T.Y. Hilton, who works as both an outside receiver and a slot receiver for the Indianapolis Colts. As a rookie, Pettis can be counted on to take on punt return responsibilities while contributing a small number of snaps on offense. Within three years, he should be acclimated to his team and producing as a top 64 receiver in the league, assuming he stays healthy. I have him graded as a 5.12, a late first round pick with Pro Bowl potential. His punt returning skills definitely hit that mark, and his receiving acumen is better than his college stats might suggest. Pettis is expected to be drafted within the first two days, likely before the start of round three.