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2018 NFL Draft Profiles: Wide Receiver Dante Pettis

The NCAA’s all-time leader in punt return touchdowns will offer a tremendous skill set to the NFL team that drafts him later this week.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s anything you need to know about Dante Pettis the person, I can’t sum it up better than the man himself did in his farewell letter to the Washington Huskies football community.

I think that one of the coolest things about playing football at UW, is that I didn’t just play on the team. I didn’t just play for the team. I played for everyone involved with Washington. ... The love that you have for this program is incredible. I may not be walking around Seattle as much as I used to, but when you do see me there, please feel free to say hi, because my interactions with you all make my day.

As for Dante Pettis the football player, suffice to say that watching him return punts and dodge opposing defenders en route to the end zone is something akin to watching that viral video from season two of Planet Earth in which a baby lizard narrowly escapes a snake pit.

Though Pettis did not participate in last month’s NFL Combine drills due to the nagging ankle injury he suffered in the Apple Cup, he measured 6’1” and 186 lbs, with 32 1/4” arms and 9 1/2” hands.

Scouting Report

Pettis excels at two aspects of the game of football above all others: running tremendously well-polished routes, and changing direction without sacrificing speed. The latter talent was fully on display throughout his college career when he amassed an NCAA FBS-record nine career punt returns for touchdowns.

As a pure wide receiver, it’s difficult to project Pettis as a true No. 1 option. After all, it’s no coincidence that his monster junior season (15 touchdowns and 822 yards on 53 catches) came at a time when opposing defenses had to also account for John Ross. As Jake Browning’s favorite target in 2017, Pettis increased his number of catches to 63 while his touchdowns and yardage figures regressed to seven and 761, respectively.

For that reason, Pettis would be best suited with a team that could utilize him in the slot, where he would be less likely to find himself matched up against physical cornerbacks who could give him fits in press coverage.

Draft Outlook

Pettis’ potential to be a game-changing punt returner boosts him into a day-two prospect, with the potential of going as early as the second round. (ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper recently stated that Pettis is a possible target for the Baltimore Ravens, who might select him with the 52nd overall pick.) He’ll be considered a steal for any team that is able to snag him in the third round or later.