SANTA CLARA (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers got more help for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday by trading up in the NFL draft to take speedy receiver and record-setting returner Dante Pettis out of Washington with the 44th overall pick.
The Niners traded the 59th and 74th overall picks to the Washington Redskins for the pick used on Pettis and the 142nd overall selection.
San Francisco then targeted defense with its next two picks in the third round, taking BYU linebacker Fred Warner with the 70th overall selection and Southern Mississippi defensive back Tarvarius Moore at 95.
San Francisco paid a premium to move up in the draft but felt Pettis’ game-breaking speed made it worth the price.
Pettis caught 63 passes for 761 yards and seven TDs last season for Washington. He has experience playing outside and in the slot and provides another deep threat in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense for Garoppolo to utilize.
“I’m hoping to do a lot of different things,” Pettis said. “Whether that’s taking a deep post, taking the top off of the defense or getting a little screen and breaking a few tackles, making a big play that way or just moving the chains on third down. There’s a lot of different things that I feel I can do that I can translate into the NFL.”
Pettis is also extremely sure-handed. He dropped just three of his 64 catchable targets, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking 13th best in the nation last season.
He also is the NCAA record-holder with nine punt returns for touchdowns, including four last season. He has a career average of 14.2 yards per return. San Francisco has gone 111 straight games without a punt return for a touchdown.
Pettis is the son of former major leaguer Gary Pettis and the cousin of former NFL receiver Austin Pettis. Gary Pettis was born and raised in nearby Oakland and is currently the third-base coach for the World Series champion Houston Astros.
“It was awesome growing up,” Dante Pettis said. “I’ve been around professional sports my whole life. I already have the lay of the land. Obviously, football is a little bit different than baseball, but for the most part it’s still a professional sport. They all go about their business pretty much the same way. I’m just excited to actually be here now.”
Warner started all 13 games last season, leading BYU with 87 tackles, including nine for loss, along with one interception and five pass breakups. He has seven career interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, as he has excelled in coverage.
“I think that’s kind of why they like me so much is my ability to play out in space and cover at a high level,” he said. “I’m more than willing and I feel like I’m very capable of being able to cover the tight ends and any slot receivers, because that’s what I was asked to do in college football.”
Warner is capable of playing the weakside or middle linebacker spot on San Francisco’s defense but said the team envisioned him more in the middle. The Niners might need some insurance there with starter Reuben Foster facing three felony counts from a domestic violence case that could impact his availability.
Moore measured 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at his pro day. Moore started one season at Southern Miss, recording 87 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season.
The Niners got the pick used on Moore by trading tackle Trent Brown and a fifth-rounder to New England earlier in the day for the selection.
That deal came a day after the Niners found Brown’s replacement when they took Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey with the ninth overall pick.