The Kansas City Chiefs were left without first and third-round draft picks in 2019 following the acquisition of DE Frank Clark from Seattle. However, the team was still able to add six rookies through the draft, including a pair in the second round who made significant contributions as the season progressed.
On Tuesday, the Pro Football Writers of America announced their selections for the 2019 All-Rookie Team and award winners. This year, those two first-year players brought in by general manager Brett Veach and company – WR Mecole Hardman and S Juan Thornhill – were recognized among their peers with a spot on the All-Rookie Team. Thornhill is joined at safety by Green Bay Packers first-rounder Darnell Savage, while Hardman was the PFWA’s top choice at the kick returner position.
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The Chiefs’ top choice last April, Hardman was selected out of Georgia with the 56th overall pick and has emerged as a top receiving threat for QB Patrick Mahomes. His 20.7 yards per reception led the team by a wide margin and his six receiving touchdowns were second only to Tyreek Hill (7). The 21-year-old speedster really made his mark on special teams as a return man. Hardman paced Kansas City with 18 punt returns for 167 yards, as well as on kickoffs with 704 yards – the third-most by any NFL player this season. Most notably, the Pro Bowler returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17.
Unfortunately for Thornhill, Kansas City’s second pick of the second round, his season was cut short during that final week of the regular season due to a torn ACL. While the Virginia product was on the field, however, he made his presence felt alongside veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu. In addition to starting all 16 games on defense, Thornhill contributed on special teams throughout the year as well. The 24-year-old playmaker racked up 57 total tackles, five pass breakups, and three interceptions – the second-most on the team behind only Mathieu (4). His breakout campaign was highlighted by a Week 13 pick-six of Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr.
The season PFWA also recognized San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa as their 2019 Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year. On the other side of the ball, Oakland Raiders RB Josh Jacobs took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
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