Dante Pettis Can Push Out Pierre Garçon for 49ers’ No. 1 Wide Receiver Duties in 2018

49ers, Dante Pettis, Packers
(Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis should see a substantial role in 2018. But pushing veteran wideout Pierre Garçon for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in 2019 is a real possibility.

Rookie second-round NFL Draft pick, wide receiver Dante Pettis, has been one of the San Francisco 49ers’ biggest standouts in training camp so far.

Despite having a sluggish two days to open camp, Pettis has since made life hell for the Niners crop of defensive backs, routinely beating them with his exceptional route-running capabilities and elusiveness. Earlier, NFL Analysis Network’s Nicholas McGee broke down why Pettis should be expected to emerge as a top receiver, not just for the 49ers but perhaps in the entire NFL as well.

Yet there’s one current Niners player standing in his way, veteran wideout Pierre Garçon.

Garçon was halfway to the respected 1,000-yard plateau for the 49ers last season before suffering a season-ending neck injury in Week 8. San Francisco brought the tough, physical receiver aboard last year because of his prior work with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. The two spent 2012 and 2013 with the Washington Redskins, where Garçon managed a league-high 113 receptions and 1,346 yards their second season together.

But Garçon will turn 32 years old before the 2018 season begins. He’s inevitably going to decline, sooner than later. And there’s a real possibility this upcoming year marks the last for Garçon and San Francisco.

Back in 2013, Garçon won because of his physicality and special route-running abilities in Shanahan’s complex offense. Pettis possesses the latter of that skill set. And for those wondering whether or not Pettis’ collegiate route-running skills can translate to the pro level, just check out the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lrWb5ae084

The first two plays featured, Pettis is winning 11-on-11 matchups against veteran defensive backs Adrian Colbert and Jimmie Ward. If those were one-on-one matchups with zero safety help over the top and plenty of room with which to work, that would be one thing. Doing so in full sessions, however, is impressive.

But if you want to see the raw one-on-one abilities, there’s this:

At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, there are inevitably going to be questions about how Pettis handles press coverage and cornerbacks jamming him at the line of scrimmage until he otherwise answers them on the field.

That’s where 2018 comes in. And the financial details too.

When the 49ers signed Garçon, they inked him to a five-year, $47.5 million contract. That’s a pretty hefty deal for a receiver in his 30s, and his dead-money cost of nearly $14 million, if cut in 2018, all but guarantees he’ll be on the roster this season.

After that is another story, however.

The 49ers hold option years on Garçon in 2019, 2020 and 2021. They can move on from the veteran with relative financial ease after this season, leaving Pettis to assume No. 1 receiving duties if he continues on his red-hot trajectory.

If Pettis doesn’t, however, the Niners still have insurance with Garçon a part of the roster if needed.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least not from early indications in training camp, which have been nothing but impressive. And while that can’t totally indicate how good Pettis can be at the pro level, he’s flashing all the signs of a top No. 1 wide receiver so far.