1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Perhaps when the Lombardi Trophy has been hoisted and the 2019 NFL season comes to its 2020 conclusion, this campaign will be but an aberration.
Perhaps all the young blood that flowed through the playoffs merely gave the old guard a rest.
It certainly doesn't appear likely; not with a one-of-a-kind wunderkind such as Patrick Mahomes flexing his miracle for an arm and propensity for the mind-spinning play.
"His mobility is unique. His arm strength is ridiculous. He's very, very accurate," complimented the man tasked with stopping Mahomes in the Super Bowl, Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, on Thursday via team transcripts. "But, what I don't think people give him enough credit for is that he actually plays quarterback. There's a lot of people, there's a lot of quarterbacks in this league that will say no to number one and then it just becomes street ball. He gets rid of the ball on time. He puts it where it needs to be. He hits a lot of throws in rhythm. And when he needs to take his shot, he knows how to buy time in the pocket and do it. So, he's a superstar in every way you can possibly imagine and he's going to be tough to deal with."
When Super Bowl Sunday dawns, Mahomes will be 24 years, 138 days young -- the fifth-youngest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history looking to become the second-youngest starting signal-caller to win the big game.
Should Mahomes pull off the latter and lead his Chiefs to their first Super Bowl win in 50 years -- more than twice Mahomes' lifetime ago -- he would trail only Ben Roethlisberger (23 years, 320 days in Super Bowl XL).
Now, Roethlisberger, who missed most of the season with an injury, is one of the old guard watching the postseason from afar. Tom Brady and Drew Brees, on the other end of 40, were on the wrong end of opening-round upsets this postseason. Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning hung 'em up just a few days ago.
Mahomes will face another young lion in the 28-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo, as they emerged from a fresh-faced playoff field that featured the likes of Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz and Josh Allen.
Years from now, this might well be looked back upon as a seminal season in which the NFL's new-age quarterbacks truly took over, but it's clear in the here and now that Mahomes is standing alone.
Having led his Chiefs to victory after a pair of stunning first-half rallies, Mahomes has thrown eight touchdowns in two games with no interceptions, compiling a stellar 131.5 passer rating. In his playoff career (all four games of it), Mahomes' 115.0 rating is the best in NFL history (minimum 125 attempts), as he's averaging 297 yards per game and has thrown 11 touchdowns and still nary an interception.
Mahomes' MVP season a year ago produced staggering numbers, but this latest playoff run has confirmed that the most talented quarterback in the NFL is leading one of the very best teams in the league.
Including the playoffs, Mahomes has started 35 games and thrown 87 touchdowns and 10,600 yards -- the most through a quarterback's first 35 starts in history, per NFL Research.
With the Chiefs' berth in the Super Bowl, Mahomes became just the third player in NFL chronicle to win an MVP and advance to the Super Bowl within his first three seasons -- joining just Hall of Famers Kurt Warner (1999) and Dan Marino (1984).
Should the Chiefs prevail, Mahomes would become the youngest player to ever win an MVP and Super Bowl, surpassing Cowboys great and all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith (24 years, 233 days), per NFL Research.
In just his third season and only his second as a starter, Mahomes has been adorned by hyperbole and accolades aplenty.
Many have proclaimed Mahomes as the NFL's star signal-caller of the future. The staggering statistics and championship results say different, however. Mahomes' time is now -- the future is here.