The 2019 season has seen some impressive performances from rookies on both sides of the ball, and the races will be tight for both Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year. While the players discussed below will be in consideration for individual awards, they have their sights set on the ultimate prize. This weekend they will attempt to continue their seasons by helping their teams secure a spot in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers
Darnell Savage has paired with free agent acquisition Adrian Amos to create a dangerous safety duo. On the season, Savage rated as the seventh-best overall rookie by Sports Info Solutions’ Total Points metric.
Savage’s charting stats have been impressive for a rookie. On the 27 targets he’s faced he allowed only 4.7 yards per target, a 44% completion percentage, and intercepted two passes while dropping two other potential interceptions. His season looks even more impressive when we look at the Packers defensive splits for when Savage was on the field compared to when he was off the field.
Packers Defense by Darnell Savage’s On/Off Field Split (excludes Kneels/Spikes)
Savage played a large majority of the snaps this season, but when he was off the field opponents became more aggressive and more successful in the passing game. His presence on the field helped the Packers defense allow 3.4 fewer yards per dropback and a whopping 15 fewer EPA per 60 plays (approximate number of plays in an average game).
Other Rookie to Watch
The Packers have a few other impactful rookies to watch for this weekend, but guard Elgton Jenkins tops the list. Jenkins has been a revelation at left guard after taking over as the starter in Week 3. Despite not starting the first two weeks, Jenkins rated as the third-best rookie offensive lineman by Total Points.
San Francisco 49ers
Second overall pick Nick Bosa has lived up to the hype. He has been a force on the edge for the 49ers defense since he took over the starting job in Week 3. Even on a defensive line that features an abundance of former first-round picks, Bosa led the 49ers and all defensive rookies in Total Points.
Bosa did most of his damage to opposing offenses as a pass rusher, but was also solid against the run. He led all rookies in pressures and pressure rate, and he was third in sacks. Against designed runs, he had 27 tackles and an impressive ATD+ of 135, which means his tackles were made 35% fewer yards downfield than expected given where he was lined up, the personnel on the field, and the play’s intended run direction. Bosa’s impact on the 49ers defense is truly highlighted when looking at the team’s performance based on his On/Off Field splits.
49ers Defense by Nick Bosa’s On/Off Field Split (excludes Kneels/Spikes)
The 49ers defense was above average when Bosa was off the field, but with him on the field it turned into an elite unit. Their Pressure% increased by 14 percentage points, they allowed close to a yard less per play, and they improved by 5.4 EPA per 60 plays when Bosa was on the field.
Other Rookie to Watch
The 49ers’ top receiving option other than All-Pro tight end George Kittle and midseason acquisition Emmanuel Sanders has been rookie receiver Deebo Samuel. Samuel finished the season second on the team in receptions and yards. He also led the league in broken/missed tackles created among all receivers, with 24.
Even with only four targets so far this postseason, A.J. Brown has had an impressive rookie season. Brown has emerged as the number one receiver the Titans had been looking for over the past few seasons. Among rookie receivers, Brown finished second in Total Points and was the only one to hit 1,000 receiving yards despite having only the fifth-most receptions.
Brown added an explosive element that had been missing from the Titans offense. His average of 20.2 yards per reception ranked third among all receivers who had at least 15 receptions. His average of 8.9 yards after catch ranked second among all receivers who had at least 15 receptions. He also broke 19 tackles on receptions this season, which ranked fourth in the league and is the most by a Titans receiver in the last four seasons.
Brown’s On/Off Field splits don’t show as much impact on efficiency as the other players mentioned in this article, but they do show how much he impacts the Titans’ offensive style.
Titans Offense by A.J. Brown‘s On/Off Field Split (excludes Kneels/Spikes)
With Brown on the field, the Titans became much more of a passing team than compared to when he was on the sideline. They dropped back to pass 61% of the time when Brown was on the field this season, compared to only 50% when he was off the field. They also became much more aggressive with their passing game, as their ADoT increased by 2.5 yards when Brown was on the field.
Other Rookie to Watch
The Titans’ other rookie to watch in this game is right guard Nate Davis. Davis finished second on the team in Total Points among rookies, hasn’t missed a snap since Week 7, and has been called for holding only once all season. Despite being a third-round pick, Davis earned a starting spot in his rookie season and has helped power the Titans ground game in the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs
With the Chiefs’ rookie leader in Total Points — safety Juan Thornhill — currently injured, Mecole Hardman is Kansas City’s rookie to watch this weekend. That’s not to take credit away from Hardman’s rookie season, which resulted in Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro selections as a returner.
Hardman finished the season ranked fourth among rookie receivers in Total Points, which is much more impressive when you consider he only had 30 offensive touches. This is a testament to just how explosive he’s been when he gets the opportunity on offense. His average of 11.5 yards after catch was 2.5 yards higher than any other receiver with at least 15 receptions. He also ranked first in yards per reception with an average of 20.7.
Hardman’s On/Off Field splits show an increase in efficiency and aggressiveness by the Chiefs offense when he was on the field.
Chiefs Offense by Mecole Hardman‘s On/Off Field Split (excludes Kneels/Spikes)
The Chiefs ADoT increased 1.6 yards when Hardman was on the field, which makes sense considering how efficient he was on deeper targets. On targets of 20+ yards, Hardman caught all six catchable targets for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
Other Rookie to Watch
Due to the injury to Thornhill, cornerback Rashad Fenton becomes the Chiefs’ second-highest-rated rookie by Total Points who will be playing this weekend. Fenton worked his way more and more into the lineup as the season went on, and last weekend against the Texans he tied Nick Bosa for the best game by Total Points of any rookie in this year’s playoffs so far.