With the San Francisco 49ers regular season over, let’s go over some season awards. We’ll go over the MVP, offensive and defensive players of the year, the rookie of the year, biggest disappointment, breakout, and most underrated, and most improved.
MVP: George Kittle
We received a little push back on Twitter from this, but I’m not sure it’s particularly close. Kittle is an animal and the best player on the team. You can double him, and it won’t matter. Not only does he pave the way for the running backs, but teams know Kittle is getting the ball on obvious passing downs and still have no answer for him. We can go over his stats and compare them to other wide receivers, but that won’t come close to telling the entire story. We saw Kittle break records in 2018. He was a better player in 2019, and that’s why he is the 49ers MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Jimmy Garoppolo
Stats do tell the story for Garoppolo, who finished the season seventh in the NFL in EPA per play and sixth in success rate. Garoppolo’s efficiency was among the best in the NFL as well this season. Only two quarterbacks finished the season with a higher percentage of their attempts going for first downs. Only Jameis Winston threw for more big plays this season, so it’s not as if Garoppolo was checking the ball down. In what was his first full season as a starter with San Francisco, Jimmy G threw 27 touchdowns and came through for the team in clutch situations.
Defensive Player of the Year: Arik Armstead
This is probably the toughest one, considering how well some players played on this side of the ball. Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, and Fred Warner all have strong arguments, but Arik Armstead was consistently great all season. Armstead finishes as the team leader in sacks and run stops. It felt like whenever the defense needed a stop, Armstead was the guy that came up with a big play. He was dominant all season. I thought both he and Bosa were neck and neck as pass rushers, but Armstead didn’t have as many run assignment busts and had just as many plays where he made a difference. A phenomenal season in a contract year. Someone is going to get paid very soon.
Rookie of the Year: Nick Bosa
Deebo Samuel would be just about any other team’s rookie of the year, but not on a team that has Bosa. Bosa had seven sacks in seven games, then offenses realized, “yeah, he’s pretty good.” While the sack numbers went away, Bosa continued to get after the quarterback. I felt like these last few games spoke to the type of player he is. A guy who plays with relentless effort every play. He wears you out. Bosa’s fourth-down stop against the Seahawks sums up his season. He wanted it more than the guy blocking him. The Niners hit the jackpot this year.
Biggest disappointment: Dante Pettis
Some have mentioned Jerick McKinnon here, but he never stepped on the field, so there weren’t ever any expectations. For me, Pettis is an easy answer when you factor in how talented he is. Watching Pettis warm up with the other players in pregame, and you see the type of athleticism he has. Jumping sky-high and making one-handed catches seem routine, but Pettis wasn’t able to find consistency this year. Pettis had more catches as a rookie in seven games than he has all season this year. Maybe I’m naive, but I wouldn’t give up on him. Hopefully, Pettis bounces back in year three. Something tells me the 49ers will need him in 2020.
Breakout player: Raheem Mostert
Kendrick Bourne deserves an honorable mention, as does Emmanuel Moseley. But man, what a season from Raheem Mostert, who has cemented himself as the 49ers No. 1 running back. Mostert has the same amount of carries as Tevin Coleman. He ran for 228 more yards, five more first downs, two more touchdowns, and has 110 more yards after contact. Oh, and he’s forced 12 more missed tackles. That’s not just comparing the two; it’s painting the picture of how well Mostert has run the ball this season. When the 49ers running game needed a spark, Mostert came out of nowhere and gave the team exactly what they needed.
Most underrated: Jimmie Ward
It wasn’t a full season, but 13 games of Jimmie Ward showed why the 49ers have faith in him. Ward is tremendous in coverage, and it’s not just in one spot. If the 49ers need the safety to slide down into the slot and take away a shifty receiver, he’s shown he is more than capable: see Rams and Robert Woods. If the 49ers need Ward to be the “eraser” over the middle of the field, he has the instincts to sniff out routes and make a big hit, as he did in Green Bay. All season, Ward made plays all over the field. If he had racked up a bunch of tackles, Ward would be a Pro Bowler. Ward only allowed 56% of his passes to be completed and will finish with a top-five success rate among all players in the NFL. It feels like calling Ward underrated is selling him short. Laken Tomlinson also deserves mention here.