The 2019 NFL season has officially come to an end. We capped off the season with an amazing Super Bowl 54 that had incredible player performances from both teams. The San Francisco 49ers dominated the first half of the game, led by star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. They played great ball-control offense and got a stellar performance from rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel to put themselves in a great position to win the game.
Halftime came and gave us a great show from Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and then the second half came and Kansas City stole the show. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs kicked things into high gear, especially in the fourth quarter. Despite being down double digits — for the third time this postseason — with only a few minutes remaining in the game, the Chiefs came back in spectacular fashion to be crowned Super Bowl 54 champions.
Now that the season is over, it’s time for one last NFL Rookie Stock Report. Which players will use their Super Bowl 54 performance to vault themselves into a successful second year? Which rookies are going to be behind the proverbial 8-ball heading into their second season? Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst rookie player performances from Super Bowl 54.
The 49ers may have come out on the losing end of the Super Bowl, but that should not take away from the performances their rookies put up. All season long, the 49ers have gotten some great play out of their latest crop of rookies, and Sunday’s game was no exception. It all starts up front with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner, Nick Bosa.
To say that Bosa was hard for the Chiefs’ offensive line to handle on Sunday would be a gross understatement. The former Ohio State star and number two overall pick turned in one of the most dominating performances I’ve ever seen from a pass rusher. It was arguably the best performance on the biggest stage since Reggie White dominated the New England Patriots all those years ago. Bosa is already putting himself in rarefied air, and he’s got so much career ahead of him. If this Super Bowl is any indication — or his entire NFL rookie season, for that matter — Bosa is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Before the Super Bowl became the Mahomes show, it was all about Deebo Samuel. The former University of South Carolina star was everywhere in the first quarter of the Super Bowl and was making a huge impact on the game for the Niners. Samuel was getting the ball in the open field and making things happen. It was an impressive showing for anyone, much less a rookie wide receiver playing on the biggest stage of his life.
Samuel proved all season, and through his performance in the Super Bowl, that he has a bright future in this league. He’s a guy who you want to have the ball in his hands any way you can get it there. Whether you’re throwing him the ball on quick screens and shovel passes, handing it off to him on a wide receiver reverse, or letting him do his thing as a conventional wide receiver, just get him the ball. Samuel has blossomed quite nicely in the Kyle Shanahan-led offense. 49ers fans should be very excited to see what year two brings.
In stark contrast to Samuel, Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman was underwhelming, to say the least. Hardman and Samuel are similar receivers in a lot of respects and are used in similar ways within their offenses. Both players are guys that you want to get the ball to in space. The two star athletes are players who you manufacture touches for, both with quick-hit pass plays & end-arounds, in addition to the more conventional wide receiver responsibilities.
However, the 49ers offense has been much more committed to getting Samuel the ball all season than the Chiefs have been with Hardman. It showed up again on Sunday, as Hardman only touched the ball twice all game, for a total of -4 yards. Hardman has been one of my favorite rookies to watch all season when the Chiefs got him the ball. However, it doesn’t feel like Hardman is a priority in this offense, and I’m not sure I see that changing in year two.
Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy is on the wrong side of 30. He was also a scratch for Sunday’s Super Bowl. Without a clear-cut workhorse back in the stable, you would think that would bode well for rookie running back Darwin Thompson going forward. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Thompson struggled to see the field all season, and those struggles continued in the Super Bowl. Even with McCoy being a scratch, Thompson only had one carry and one receiving target out of the backfield on Sunday. All of the work that could have gone to Thompson instead went to former Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams. To Williams’ credit, he turned in what was an MVP-worthy performance.
Williams finished the Super Bowl with over 140 total yards and two touchdowns. Couple that breakout performance with the fact that Thompson didn’t seem more than 35% of the offensive snaps in any single game this season, and the needle is pointing down on this rookie going into his second season.
That’s all, folks! It’s been an incredible journey watching the performances these players — and all of our rookies — turned in, not just in Super Bowl 54, but all season long. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading the chronicles of the rookies’ journey as I have had writing them. Now it’s time to gear up for what looks to be an incredible 2020 NFL Draft class and welcome the next batch of NFL rookies for the 2020 season.