Name: Dante Pettis
Position: Wide Receiver
Pettis is slight at just 192 pounds and lacks the physicality to play outside on a regular basis. He thrives more on quickness and route running to get himself open. He does, however, have decent length for a slot receiver at 6-foot-1 and he appears to have room to bulk up.
Pettis sat out both the combine and the Washington pro day due to an injury, so we do not know his exact speed numbers. What we do know is that Pettis has plus speed, both as a route runner and with the ball in his hands. He has long strides but also gets up to top gear quickly with good acceleration. Washington used Pettis as their primary screen guy, allowing him to show off his speed in space. Plus, as a return man, Pettis recorded nine career touchdowns and had one of the best return averages in the country. He is not as fast as his former teammate John Ross, but he has enough to be a threat.
Pettis’ ability to leap and high point are not entirely clear as he was not Washington’s primary downfield threat. However, as a red zone fade target, Pettis demonstrates exceptional body control and timing to come down with the catch in traffic. His change of direction is top notch, making him a nightmare as a route runner and as a ball carrier. It almost always takes more than one man to bring him down as his acceleration and elusiveness lead to a bunch of missed tackles.
Pettis has all-around fantastic ball skills. He catches everything he should, as well as some passes he should not. As stated before, he has the concentration and body control to make plays in traffic, both between the hashes and on the sideline. He attacks the ball to prevent the defender from undercutting him and always keeps his hands away from his body. Over the last two years, there were numerous instances of Pettis securing and maintaining ball control while he was being tackled. As a guy with good but not elite speed, this will be a large factor in his ability to stick long-term.
This is what will set Pettis apart from other late day-two receiver prospects. Pettis does all the little things well to get open. He sets up his defender with good stems, deceleration to acceleration and head fakes. Despite his long strides, he can break down and cut without much setup. His ability to work slant to fade should make him a red zone threat immediately. Plus, Pettis came from a situation that forced him to excel at improvisation. Washington’s poor mediocre offensive line and the scrambling penchant of quarterback Jake Browning led to a lot of broken plays. As a result, Pettis had to learn how to get himself open outside of scheme. And he managed to be productive each of his last two seasons. NFL offenses are tightly structured, but the abilities to read, react and make plays for oneself will always carry high value.
Minnesota’s plan at receiver appears to be Kendall Wright as the slot guy and Laquon Treadwell as the third receiver on the edge. However, they had no qualms of running out five different receivers last year and rolling with whoever was most productive. Now, if they see Tavarres King as that fifth guy, then the chances of going receiver early in the draft would be small. And there are some upside picks at the position on day three. But with Wright under contract for only one year and Treadwell entering his prove-it seasons, the Vikings are not in position to be complacent with their receiver situation.
Pettis has versatility as a slot, outside receiver and punt returner. His exceptional route running could complement Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who run tight routes themselves. The third round may be higher than where Vikings fans want to invest in a receiver. But if they go after Pettis or another receiver on day two, they have a better chance of locking in their receiving group for the foreseeable future (assuming they extend Diggs). And a deep and productive set of receivers is something the Vikings have not had in quite some time.