Fifth-year options show everyone’s guessing in the NFL draft

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In the days following the NFL draft, we’re inundated with draft report cards who are certain they know which team deserves an ‘A’ and which team deserves an ‘F.’

Here’s the truth: No one knows anything.

For proof of that, look no further than the fifth-year options on the contracts of first-round picks. Those are the options that teams chose this week whether or not to pick up on their 2013 first-round picks, and they basically tell us whether or not the draft pick worked out.

As it turned out, players in the 2013 draft had basically a 50-50 chance of working out: Of the 32 players taken in the first round, 17 had their fifth-year options picked up, 12 had their options declined, one has already been cut, one has already agreed to a new contract and one is currently suspended and has no option to pick up.

The Top 10 of the draft was a little worse than the next 22; five of the top 10 picks didn’t have their options picked up, and Dion Jordan, the third overall pick, is suspended.

NFL teams, which spend several months and millions of dollars evaluating players, just can’t consistently say which college players will pan out and which ones will bust. The rest of us can’t, either. The draft is a lot of fun, but it’s a crap shoot.

50 responses to “Fifth-year options show everyone’s guessing in the NFL draft

  1. Big time packer stock holder who doesn’t chime in very often, if you think you have it bad my team has whiffed on 1st round picks 10 straight years!

  2. Fans of teams often give passes to their team if they draft a high character guy and it doesn’t pan out. It’s when teams drafts knuckleheads that leaves no option to resign some of their high draft picks. Teams often are chastised when they take the risky player with a past history.

  3. Sir Isaac Newton, a pretty smart guy, believed in the existence of the luminiferous aether, which, in fact, does not exist. He also invested in tulip bulbs right before the bubble burst in the tulip market. I’m not picking on Newton, just showing that no one knows anything. If Newton could be so wrong, even if it’s just twice in his lifetime, then what hope do mere mortals have of perfection? None…

  4. They say the good teams build through the draft but what they don’t tell you is that 2/3 of an NFL team is built through rounds 4-7.

  5. Most teams are guessing at coaches as well….. Just look at The Bills picking up Rex Ryan even after seeing what he did to The Jets

  6. I think everyone is aware the draft is not an exact science. Just like players have weaknesses, general managers have weaknesses. Take Ted Thompson for example. For the most part Ted does real well picking wide receivers secondary personnel and offensive linemen. His record picking defensive linemen, especially early, is abysmal. Looking over all of teds drafts, 7 of his 16 worst picks were defensive linemen drafted in the first three rounds. Only one offensive lineman fell into that category.

  7. It is incorrect to say “No one knows anything”. It’s more correct to say that the success rate on NFL picks is around 50-60% even for the best scouts/GMs. The success rate for someone off the street would probably be minuscule – especially if they didn’t have all the mock drafts and expert analysis to guide them.

  8. That shows you what a crock it is that all these websites grade each teams draft class and post a winners and loser article. They have no idea how these players are going to turn out

  9. We go over this every year. Some players are busts, some are not, the draft process is not an exact science. You’re beating a dead horse at this point.

  10. I love the the draft grades. These people don’t know what is going to happen. Zeke is going to be great, just like Richardson was. Luke Joekel, Mike Williams and Robert Gallery were can’t miss tackles. This list could go on for days. No one will know for a couple years. I still remember the Seahawks draft that supposedly was awful, then they are winning the Superbowl with a lot of the pieces coming from that draft.

  11. You are basing your statement that everyone is guessing off of ONE draft. Do the same analysis for several and see if it is true. Then you’d have something

    You can’t draw a line (or conclusion) through a single point. There are nearly infinite directions. You need at least two. Preferably more.

  12. I think that’s whats so awesome about the draft. It gives us football fans a “God’s eye view” of other people’s lives. We can track the success or failure of football players and what was said about them, what they said about themselves, and what transpires years down the road.

    Helps you to appreciate the toughness and fortitude that some players have to exist in the NFL for as long as they do. Juxtapose players who bounce around from team to team and have late success (McCown) and players who blow every opportunity given to them (Manziel).

    It’s great real life drama.

  13. truninerfan49 says:
    May 3, 2016 12:30 PM
    Then why aren’t more 1st round picks traded for proven players?
    Cost and philosophy. First you have to find a team willing to part with their proven guy. A lot of teams are not. Secondly proven guys are making larger salaries than 1st round picks. If you hit a home run with a draft pick you have him for 4-5years at a capped salary. Besides every year proven guys hit the free agent market so a team instead of giving up draft picks and picking up a big veteran salary they can just bid on the market for a proven guy.

    Last…..and this is my opinion…… It seems like things work better for teams that can take a rookie and groom them into their philosophy and playing schemes. You can never tell how a player that performed so well on another team will perform on yours. We’ve seen a number of big free agents switch teams and never approach the production they had with their old team.

  14. “This young man, I think he’s got the potential to be the player that I compare him to, which is Jason Taylor, who ironically played for the Miami Dolphins. I also think he looks like an Aldon Smith, and if he puts on 20 pounds on that 6-foot-7 frame, one day he might be as good as a DeMarcus Ware”

    Mike Mayock on Dion Jordan, back in 2013.

  15. truninerfan49 says:
    May 3, 2016 12:30 PM

    Then why aren’t more 1st round picks traded for proven players?

    Salary cap. Proven players are expensive; draft players are cheap. Furthermore, the Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watts, and Antonio Browns, etc. of the world will never be traded, at least not until the back end of their career. So the only way to ever get a true star in their prime is to draft him, often in the first or second round. Hitting home runs in the draft and effectively coaching the talent you secure there is the only real path to long term success.

  16. Would help if the 5th year option wasn’t a ridiculous amount of cash. Take Chance Warmack for example, 11.8 mil for a guard. He could be of been a multiple pro bowler and no team would pick him up for that much. A lot of these players will resign for their teams but at a more reasonable salary.

  17. swaglee says:
    May 3, 2016 12:32 PM

    They say the good teams build through the draft but what they don’t tell you is that 2/3 of an NFL team is built through rounds 4-7.

    Yes, but most of the 1/3 of an NFL team that starts and plays consistently are picked up in rounds 1-3.

  18. So you’re saying it’s time to stop spending all that money on researching players and instead draft according to coolest name?

  19. h0metownzero says:
    May 3, 2016 12:40 PM
    Viking drafts tend to be more “crap” than “shoot”.

    You mean the same Viking team that had three first round picks in 2013, and hit on two of them? Sounds like a pretty good percentage considering the rest of the league.

  20. “The draft is a lot of fun, but it’s a crap shoot.”

    I beg to differ. This article represent a serious over simplification of the draft and it’s many machinations. How about you look at all of the drafts since the new CBA and look at how EACH TEAM has handled the fifth year option, scouting, and draft grades. A specific team may actually be able to identify quality players through scouting and the draft. Overall, yes, the fifth year options seem to show a wash from the 2013 draft. But, that ignores teams that consistently draft well and retain their quality players. Take the Packers, for example. The Pack declined Nick Perry’s fifth year option in May 2015. In May 2016, the Pack gave Nick Perry a 1-year 5 million dollar contract. Datone Jones has had his fifth year option declined, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bust. It just means he’ll need to step it up in order to stay with the team.

    So, the fact of the matter is that for SOME TEAMS, yes, the draft IS a crap shoot. But for other teams, there seems to be a pattern of good guesses which would indicate that those teams actually know what they are doing.

  21. A first round player can be a successful pick but not be considered worth the cost of a 5th year option. Not picking up an option can easily just be a statement about how the contract rules fit in to current team economics.

    As an example, a few years ago people were falling all over themselves to pay “blind side” tackles $10 million a year. Look at it today, many teams going away from this. Things change.

  22. I would say that 2013 seems like an outlier. Maybe it isn’t but what is it compared to other years? And if it was really a crap shoot why do some GMs do really well & some do awful. Ruston Webster basically lit our 1st & 2nd round picks on fire for 4 years. Was it just bad luck or does he just suck at evaluating talent?

    And are teams supposed to just stop evaluating players outside of college game tape?

  23. You’re talking about a sport where 32 teams have their own unique systems and ideas on how players should be used. Where injuries can happen at any moment that end a player’s career. And where having a team full of role players can potentially top a team with bonafide super stars and vice versa any game and season.

    You add all that up, and some guy on the internet gives it a B- because a player that hasn’t even put his jersey on yet went in the 4th round instead of an early 5th.

  24. Wrong … it merely indicates that the slotted system is overrewarding many 1st rounders in their fifth year compared to what the NFL free agent market bears.

  25. The draft is a crapshoot, but 2013 was an aberration. There are 5-6 outstanding players, tops, drafted in the 1rst round. It was just a bad draft. Most yrs, 90% of 5th yr options are picked up. The best teams consistantly hit on their 1rst rnd pks, yr after yr. You take your shots later in the draft. The Pro Bowl is always loaded with 1rst rnders.

  26. If it’s the Bills or Browns drafting a QB, you might as well put them on the decline / cut side.

  27. It’s kinda like gambling, or picking stocks – the typical gambler betting against the spread will hit 50% of the time; a professional gambler will hit about 60%. Same with the good football GMs vs the bad football GMs.

  28. Not Panthers’ GM Dave Gettleman. Every year the talking heads trash his draft but he’s knocked it out of the park every year.

  29. There’s also schemes though…Look at the PFT favorites, the Cowboys…Drafted man corners in Carr and MoC, fired Rob Ryan as DC and to employ heavily Tampa 2 Scheme requiring your man corners play zone…It was a disaster, they now allow the corners to play mostly man but the scheme is designed for the corners to play zone in order for the CBs to get interceptions but they don’t…You have some rare exceptions where CB can excel is both zone and man but usually they’re far better at one vs the other…

    Look at Suh last season, wore sneakers instead of cheats at practice to protest the scheme and got their DC fired…

    Just examples of teams “assuming” their players can play in any scheme…

  30. What I really want to see is a draft time show featuring 25 of the best players in the NFL. Let’s hear Kiper’s analysis so we can make fun of all of his misses.

  31. Who cares? Draft grades are fun and gives fans something to read/discuss. Which is good because there isn’t much else for a while to talk about.

  32. Makes you wonder how buffoons like Kiper have a job or that people pay attention to him ….

  33. Panthers last 5 years:
    2011 Cam Newton
    2012 Luke Kuechly
    2013 Star Lotulelei
    2014 Kelvin Benjamin
    2015 Shaq Thompson
    2016 Veron Butler

    ezzey peezy.

  34. I love the draft but you have to understand that it is a lesson in futility. Most fail for a variety of reasons. Not only that but in reality, football is entertainment.

    Life is also a lesson in futility. Most succeed for a variety of reasons but we all end up in the same place.

    So why bother?

    Because some of us just flat out enjoy it. It being the draft, or life or whatever.

  35. tedmurph says:
    May 3, 2016 1:06 PM
    The draft is a crapshoot, but 2013 was an aberration.


    You got that right. Go back and look at Rivals and the corresponding High School class. Worse top 100 I’ve ever seen.

    I wonder how many time when the top 100 in Rivals have a bunch of stud college players, that turns into a stud draft.


    Ezekial Ansah was the big ‘Bust/Boom’ guy and so many of those safe players around him were busts.

  36. I PAY ZERO-ZERO ATTENTION TO MEL KIPER. He has a good hair stylist and that’s about it. Mock Drafts, The Draft, and post draft hyperbole is like a rocking chair. It gives you a lot to do, but doesn’t get you ANYWHERE. Allbeit there is a 50:50 chance that any GM can get some choices right. Mike’s 5 year tale of the tape is the gold standard. I wonder how many of the Mel Kiper’s can’t miss prospects survived the cut over the past ten years? I don’t have time to look it up but it might be a good thesis paper for an aspiring sports analyst.

    Good teams make average players better (New England). Bad teams make good players worse Systems of; coaching staff, the player’s attitude, his desire to achieve, proving of nay-sayers wrong, testosterone levels, and financial gain all play a part in a draftee’s outcome. Unfortunately the combine, senior day, and team workouts don’t turn up all of this info. Otherwise Mike’s 50:50 would be more like 80:20.

    Remember that DG; picked two defensive tackles in one draft, plugged in some has-beens, signed some underachievers, and still has three division champs, and a Super Bowl appearance.

    Just wait for the rocking chair to come to reality with the three D-Backs.

  37. The only certainty in the draft is that every year a new group of fans will join the Goodell booing.

  38. h0metownzero says:
    May 3, 2016 12:40 PM

    Viking drafts tend to be more “crap” than “shoot”.
    The Vikings won their division last year. A lot of teams and fans wish they were as good as the Vikings right now.

  39. It also depends on what the draft looks like. Would you want to invest huge money in a player that has given you 4 good years, or let someone else be saddled with his contract when you’re optimistic that you can draft his replacement and pay him way less for 4 years. The 5th year option as a measuring stick isn’t completely objective….

  40. Nine players of the 1st Round of the 2013 draft went to the Pro Bowl. The teams that “won” that draft are:

    Lions, Jets, 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Falcons, Texans, Vikings and the Cowboys.

  41. One more thing. The Raiders picked a Pro-Bowler in the 6th round, the only team in the 2013 draft to pick one in rounds 4-7. I guess that’s something too.

  42. Not picking up the option isn’t the same as cutting them. If you pick up the option, that means you have to pay them on a certain scale. A player could be a contributor and not worthy of that pay scale. If I’m not mistaken, their teams can still sign them in the offseason at a different, negotiated rate. Those very same players could still have a lengthy and productive career.

  43. I think scouting is similar to hitting a baseball. Nobody gets a hit every time. Everybody strikes out. However, they keep very precise statistics in baseball, so you can tell that even though Ted Williams didn’t get a hit every time, he was certainly better than most. In fact, there are very detailed stats on every player. You can definitely rank the best from the worst. I think the NFL should have some way of keeping these stats. Of course, the bad scouts aren’t going to be in favor of this, and some GMs are bad scouts.

  44. Just want to take this opportunity to remind all those folks that mercilessly ripped Dallas for trading down and drafting Travis Frederick (and Terrance Williams with the extra 3rd rounder). Remember Kiper “I had him in the 3rd round” and other ESPN guys laughing?

    Good times… Frederick and Dallas are laughing now as he’s arguably the best center in the NFL, 2x Pro Bowl performer, 2x second team All-Pro in three seasons…

    Oh, and his 5th year option was picked up…

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