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For the third-straight Super Bowl, one team is very veteran-reliant. That would be the 49ers in Super Bowl 58. While the Chiefs certainly have some experienced stars, like, say, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones, Kansas City leans much more on youngsters than San Francisco. 

With that in mind, let's rank the most critical first-year pros in Super Bowl LVIII:

5. Ji'Ayir Brown, S, 49ers

An early-career injury curtailed the start to Brown's rookie season. As he's gotten healthy -- and made some plays -- his playing time has increased. In the NFC title game, he tied a career high with 72 snaps. The loss of ubiquitous safety Talanoa Hufunga heightened the importance of Brown on the field in a versatile defensive back role for Steve Wilks defense. Brown was a twitchy, ball-hawking safety at Penn State, and he had two interceptions with four pass breakups during the regular season playing next to wily veterans Tashaun Gipson and Logan Ryan in San Francisco.

While the Chiefs don't stretches defenses vertically as much as they once did in the Mahomes era, joining the run-stopping efforts is vital for safeties, as is not allowing the big splash play over the top.

4. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Chiefs

FAU was the Chiefs' first-round pick last April. In picking him, Kansas City aimed to get Jones more help on the outside of the team's pass rush, particularly after a relatively disappointing rookie season from 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis. Ironically, Karlaftis took a noticeable step forward in Year 2, and Anudike-Uzomah could hardly get on the field, registering a mere 11 quarterback pressures on 149 pass-rushing snaps in the regular season. 

And when Charles Omenihu returned from suspension, FAU didn't have a game -- until the meaningless regular-season finale -- in which he played double-digit snaps. That all led to the former Kansas State bendy pass-rush specialist not seeing the field in the playoffs to date. But with Omenihu tearing his ACL in the AFC championship game win over the the Ravens, the Chiefs are forced to turn to FAU for a secondary jolt of outside rushing juice against one of the better offensive lines in football. Keep an eye on how No. 97 for the Chiefs performs in this one. It'll matter. 

3. Chamarri Conner, S, Chiefs

Conner is another first-year safety who's played more as his rookie season has continued, and he's been far from a liability. While he hasn't made a ton of plays on the ball in coverage, his electric athletic gifts keep him near the football on run plays. He had 10 tackles and forced a fumble on 77 snaps against the Bills in the divisional round. While the former Virginia Tech star only saw 25 snaps against the Ravens, he's apt to be utilized often against the diverse collection of skill-position talent the 49ers possess. How he handles the bright lights of the Super Bowl will be low-key critical for the Chiefs defensive efforts.

2. Jake Moody, K, 49ers

Yes, a kicker at No. 2. Moody can't help that he was a third-round pick. But with that high selection comes intensified pressure. During the season, Moody went 21 of 25 on field goals (84%), the 20th-best make rate in football. More relevant, though, is that he's missed a kick in each of San Francisco's two playoff games this season and missed an extra point in the regular-season finale loss to the Rams

In what feels like a very evenly matched Super Bowl, it may come down to a Moody boot to determine the winner.

1. Rashee Rice, WR, Chiefs

Rashee Rice
KC • WR • #4
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Rice finished third yards after the catch in the regular season -- damn impressive for a rookie, right?! -- and slowly but surely emerged as the Chiefs de facto No. 1 wideout as the year progressed. All three of his 100-yard efforts came after mid-November, and five of his seven touchdowns in the regular season were caught after Halloween. 

A rugged runner with the thickness and natural hard-to-shake equilibrium to absorb contact and keep the legs churning, Rice is the foundational piece of what Kansas City tries to do through the air. The Chiefs as a team generated the most total yards after the catch in the NFL this season.