With the baffling news coming out of Chicago this past week that the Bears refused to match the Saints offer sheet for WR Cameron Meredith, the wide receiver position is once again among the top needs for the Bears going into the 2018 NFL Draft. As the depth chart currently stands, the only wide receivers under contract are new acquisitions Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, and a lackluster group of players including Kevin White, Tanner Gentry, Josh Bellamy, and Demarcus Ayers. The Bears are an Allen Robinson injury away from an encore performance of Throw Trubisky to the Wolves.
The team did decide to sign Bennie Fowler to a deal on Friday. Still, Fowler alone will not be able to replace Meredith.
With the recent changes, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Bears will target a wide receiver at some point in the draft. Even before Meredith was shooed out of town, the Bears were in play for a late-round receiver. Now, with Meredith gone, the Bears are expected to target a receiver earlier than previously anticipated. The additions of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton will probably push the need down to the second day, where a plethora of talented players lie, including Equanimeous St. Brown, DJ Moore, and Dante Pettis. The last name on that list is, perhaps, the most intriguing.
Dante Pettis, a talented receiver out of Washington, has all of the skills to become a tremendous secondary receiving option in the NFL, something that the Bears are sorely in need of after donating their number two receiver to the Saints. Pettis could be in play for the Bears with their second-round pick.
He is a tremendous route runner. Dante Pettis’s best trait may be his route running. He is an extremely polished route runner, with the ability to effectively fake cornerbacks out. He easily managed to create separation against cornerbacks he faced and makes sharp breaks that allow for precise route running. Furthermore, Pettis’s route tree is very polished, and the fact that he already has a vast route tree will ease his transition to the NFL. He has the skills to affect the game anywhere on the field, and he consistently finds a way to get open, especially in the red zone.
He has great athleticism. Although Pettis may not be the quickest player, he is extremely agile. He has great acceleration and agility for a receiver his size and has the instincts to find an open space in the secondary when a play breaks down. Pettis was also a tremendous punt returner at Washington, amassing nine return touchdowns, highlighting his elusiveness and ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. In a city accustomed to great returners (see: Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Tarik Cohen), Pettis would be a welcome addition to Chris Tabor’s unit. Having the three of Pettis, Gabriel, and Cohen could make the Dave Toub special a norm in Chicago.
He has sticky hands and is a reliable target that can go up and get it. Pettis is a well-rounded receiver that can win jump balls. He has sticky hands and is able to make in-air adjustments to the ball, and has a tremendous concentration in traffic. Pettis has the ability to make amazing catches a-la Odell Beckham Jr. and 2014 Alshon Jeffrey, as is seen in his highlight reel.
He is not very physical. One big knock on Pettis is his lack of physicality. At six feet, 195 pounds, Pettis isn’t the biggest or strongest receiver. He needs to bulk up and add strength to become a more polished receiver. Additionally, Pettis struggled against physical corners in college, something he will have to overcome for him to succeed in the NFL, where cornerbacks are much more physical than those in College Football. This weakness could be his undoing in the NFL if it is not resolved.
Inconsistent performances may lead to doubts about his skills. Another knock on Pettis is that he only had a few big games, with six of his seven touchdowns from this past season coming in two games. Pettis has a tendency to disappear for large stretches of time, even though he has the physical traits to get open. This has led to questions about his stamina and personality, despite the fact that his work ethic is lauded by many coaches. Furthermore, Pettis has only had two good years in college, and they have not been mind-blowing.
Injury history. Uh oh. Not again. Pettis has sat out of the NFL Combine and Washington’s Pro Day, citing an ankle injury. Memories of Kevin White and him sitting out his rookie year (and most of his career) will scare many Bears fans away. If Pettis’ injury is anything serious, Ryan Pace will not hear the end of this selection from Bears’ fans, and rightfully so. After gifting the Saints with Cameron Meredith, citing concerns about the health of his knees, Ryan Pace knows that any selection with even a slight injury history will be under tremendous scrutiny. The Bears need to do their due diligence to make sure that Pettis will be 100% healthy by training camp.
Overall, Pettis is a solid player with the potential to develop into a match-up nightmare in the NFL. He has the physical traits to be a reliable target for Mitch Trubisky. Pettis isn’t going to develop into a number one receiver, but he will be a dependable option and could be an upgrade over Cameron Meredith as a number two.
There is risk in drafting Pettis, with concerns over his injury history and tendency to disappear. Nonetheless, his physical traits and abilities as a receiver would make him a solid choice for the Bears in the second round of the NFL Draft.