The 2019 NFL season has left us with the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV in Miami. There is plenty of talent to go around on both teams, but where exactly would each starter fall on a list of the best players in the game?
Pro Football Focus' play-by-play grading allows us to answer that question. This list contains the 44 projected starters for the game, along with nine rotational players who are expected to see significant time. The order was determined by how well a player performed by PFF grade (including the playoffs) relative to his position in 2019, with several minor adjustments made to prioritize players in positions that have a larger impact on the outcome of the game. We'll also include where each player ranked overall at his position.
Overall, the 49ers have a much more well-rounded roster, as they account for 18 of the top 25 players. However, the top 10 is an even split, as the Chiefs have some obvious star power, and they're led by the league's reigning MVP. Which brings us to the best player ahead of Super Bowl LIV ...
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
Grade: 90.6 | Position rank: 2
Was there any doubt that Mahomes would find his way to the top of this list? Big-time players step up in big-time games, and Mahomes has done just that this postseason. He has earned a 95.7 overall grade over his team's playoff wins against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, and if he's able to maintain that through the Super Bowl, it would be the best postseason mark we've seen since PFF started grading in 2006. The scary part is that his playoff stat line could be even better, as his receivers have dropped eight of his 70 attempts so far.
2. George Kittle, TE, 49ers
Grade: 94.7 | Position rank: 1
Kittle recently won PFF's Dwight Stephenson Award, which goes to the best player in the NFL regardless of position or positional value. In most games, he would be the No. 1 choice on this list, but he falls just short of Mahomes in this one. Kittle's 95.0 overall grade during the regular season was the highest single-season grade of any tight end in the PFF era, and that includes the run of dominance we saw from Rob Gronkowski over his career.
3. Richard Sherman, CB, 49ers
Grade: 90.2 | Position rank: 1
In his second season removed from an Achilles injury and at 31 years old, no one would have faulted Sherman for not returning to the level of play that we saw from him in Seattle. That's exactly what he has done, though. In 17 games this season, including the playoffs, Sherman has allowed just 29 completions into his coverage for 301 yards, and he leads all cornerbacks in overall grade.