The Super Bowl Rookies

As hundreds of college athletes are sharpening their skills hoping to become the next wave of rookies selected in this April’s NFL Draft, a select few of the NFL’s current rookies are gearing up for the biggest game of their lives coming this February 3rd, 2019 – Super Bowl LIII.

Only about nine in every 10,000 high school seniors go on to be drafted in the NFL – that’s only .09 percent. Of those nine, even fewer end up actually making the team, let alone having a significant impact on Sundays. Being a rookie that has a chance to make an impact in a Super Bowl? Well, you’re probably more likely to win the lottery the night before the big game. To get a better understanding of just how difficult it is for a rookie to make a name for themselves in the Super Bowl, look no further than the two teams set to face off.

When all was said and done, the New England Patriots had nine picks in the 2018 NFL Draft – five of them have ended up on season ending injured reserve, and four of the five never played a snap in the regular season. Of the four that didn’t end up on the IR one of them isn’t on the active roster (QB Danny Etling). Defensive back, Duke Dawson, was drafted in the second round by the Pats and went down with a hamstring injury in training camp. He was put on the IR with designation to return but since being activated he has yet to debut in a game. Don’t count on Head Coach, Bill Belichick, giving someone their first taste of action in a Super Bowl. Seventh round pick, Keion Crossen, has seen the field in limited sub-packages at defensive back but mainly plays on special teams.

One name that could end up making an impact for New England is J.C. Jackson, a player who wasn’t drafted at all. Jackson was signed as an undrafted free agent and his work ethic allowed him to become a starter in the Pats week 13 matchup against the Vikings – one of the best receiving corps in the league. He’s played a major role in filling the hole across from Stephon Gilmore and appears to be ready for the challenge. Then there’s Sony Michel – one of New England’s two first-round picks. Michel is the Pats starting running back, finishing the season ranked 15th in rush yards and has come on strong in the first two playoff games of his career. In his two playoff games against the Colts and Chiefs, Michel has rushed for a total of 242 yards and five touchdowns. If any rookies are going to etch their name in the history books on Super Bowl Sunday, it will likely be Sony. Then again, Belichick could end up giving Rex Burkhead 47 carries instead.

J.C. Jackson
J.C. Jackson (left) defends pass against the Vikings

On the other sidelines, chances are even slimmer when it comes to a rookie making an impact in the big game. The Los Angeles Rams had 10 picks in the 2018 draft, but none in the first or a second round.  Los Angeles traded their first round pick to New England for wide receiver, Brandin Cooks, and shipped their 2018 second-round pick to Buffalo the year prior for wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, who is no longer with the team. Of those 10 selections, three are backup offensive lineman, one is the third string running back, and the other six are on the defensive side of the ball. Only one of those six, defensive end, John Franklin-Meyers, has put in anything that could be considered real playing time. Franklin-Meyers has logged just 29.7 percent of the defensive snaps this season. In that time he’s earned a total of 10 tackles and two sacks. He’s not likely to bring down Tom Brady on Super Bowl Sunday, but an opportunity might present itself.

Neither Super Bowl team may be stacked full of Hall of Fame rookies like the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers – consisting of Lynn Swann (WR), Jack Lambert (LB), John Stallworth (WR), and Mike Webster (C) – but it only takes one big play to have an impact on the final score. The opportunity awaits.

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