Perhaps the best way to judge a first-round NFL draft pick is by listening to the team when it comes time to exercise fifth-year options.
Mistakes can be made over declining a fifth-year option. Kyle Fuller of the Chicago Bears and Jack Conklin of the Tennessee Titans are two notable examples of players cashing in after the fifth year was declined. It’s hard for teams to hide. They have to make a decision in early May before a player’s fourth season whether they want to keep team control for a fifth year.
In the case of the 2017 draft, the top five isn’t looking so hot. Tennessee Titans receiver Corey Davis had his fifth-year option declined Friday, an admission that he hasn’t played up to his draft status as the fifth overall selection.
Most of the top five hasn’t.
Only 1 of top 5 picks in 2017 has option exercised thus far
Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns had his fifth-year option picked up, which was no surprise. The first pick of the 2017 draft might not be a superstar yet — fans probably know him better for something other than his play on the field — but he has been good.
The next four picks were rough.
Davis and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall) did not have their fifth-year options exercised. Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette haven’t heard from their respective teams yet but it would be no surprise if they’re declined too.
Fournette was reportedly on the trade block this offseason. Though he wasn’t moved, it’s hard to argue he has lived up to the hype. He has been underwhelming on the field and the Jaguars have had issues with him off the field. It would be surprising if his fifth year was picked up.
Trubisky is more complicated. The Bears used the second overall pick on him. He had a solid 2018 season and regressed in 2019. The Bears traded for Nick Foles in the offseason, though maintain Trubisky still is ahead of Foles on the depth chart. Because Trubisky is a quarterback, and teams often err on the side of overpaying mediocre QBs rather than start over, Trubisky having his fifth year exercised can’t be ruled out even though the Bears haven’t shown much confidence in him.
The deadline for a decision is May 4.
Some mistakes made early in 2017 draft
The rest of the first round in 2017 has some stars, which makes those missed picks in the top five look even worse. We’ve heard enough about the Bears passing on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson for a lifetime. Fournette went ahead of Christian McCaffrey. And so on.
Cincinnati Bengals receiver John Ross, the ninth pick, will probably have his option declined. Cornerback Gareon Conley, drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders and already traded, won’t have his fifth-year option exercised. Neither will Takk McKinley of the Atlanta Falcons or injured linebacker Reuben Foster, who was cut by the San Francisco 49ers for off-field issues and picked up by the Washington Redskins. This week Taco Charlton and Charles Harris, first-round picks of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, were cut and traded respectively.
There are hits and misses in every first round, and 2017 had its share of stars. Just not many from the first five picks, which is a significant setback to those teams.
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