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What Fifth-Year Option Decisions Teach Us About How NFL Teams Evaluated Their 2017 Drafts

The Chiefs, Texans, and Steelers have plenty to celebrate. The Bears … not so much.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

While the NFL draft-media-industrial complex is obsessed with giving teams grades immediately after each NFL draft, an honest self-evaluation will always be better. Teams hand in self-evaluations of the first-round picks on their roster three years after each draft. By deciding whether to pick up the fifth-year option included in each first-rounder’s contract, teams reveal how they feel about their top draft picks from three years ago.

Every NFL draft pick signs a four-year contract, but every first-round contract dating back to 2011 includes a team option for a fifth year. If the player is performing anywhere near the team’s expectations, the fifth year is a no-brainer. But if the player is underperforming, it is usually an easy decision to decline the fifth year, which is non-negotiable and carries a big price (the price is an average of the top salaries at the player’s position, with the top-10 picks getting a higher average than the rest of the round). For example, the Kansas City Chiefs picked up the fifth-year option for Patrick Mahomes’s contract at the cost of around $25 million in 2021. The Chicago Bears also had the option to add a fifth year to Mitchell Trubisky’s contract for $25 million in 2021. The Chiefs chose to pay Mahomes $25 million in 2021, while the Bears chose to make Trubisky a free agent at the end of next season, assuming they don’t re-sign. This is essentially a pass/fail self-evaluation for each first-round pick: Does the team want them for that fifth season?

Every team does this every season for its first-round pick from three years ago. That allows us to look back at past drafts and see how each team evaluated their own performance. And teams did not do well in 2017. Astonishingly, four of the top five players—and nearly half of the first round—had their fifth-year options declined before last week’s deadline. Let’s look at each pick and see how their team graded the first-round picks based on whether they exercised or declined each player’s option.

1. Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Cleveland Browns

2021 option: Roughly $15 million (exercised)

Garrett’s 2019 season ended in disgrace after he swung a helmet at the unprotected head of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in November. The NFL suspended Garrett indefinitely before reinstating him in February. Now, Browns general manager Andrew Berry says that the team is looking to sign Garrett to a contract extension.

“We do see Myles as a long-term member and pillar in our organization,’’ Berry told Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan last month. “Great player, great person. Obviously, he did make a mistake last year that he’s learned from. But our confidence in and faith in Myles has not wavered, and we’re looking to seeing what he does this year and certainly for years to come.”

Garrett has 30.5 sacks in 37 career games, the seventh most in that many games to start a career since sacks became a statistic in 1982. The players directly behind him are Joey Bosa, J.J. Watt, Charles Haley, Jevon Kearse, and Dwight Freeney. Garrett was the consensus best player in this draft class, so the pick itself wasn’t up for much debate, and the defensive end has produced accordingly.

Amazingly, the Browns had not picked up the fifth-year option on any of their previous nine first-round picks dating back to 2011, according to The Athletic. Despite a plethora of picks from 2011 to 2016, all of the Browns first-rounders in that time—Phil Taylor (2011, 21st), Trent Richardson (2012, third), Brandon Weeden (2012, 22nd), Barkevious Mingo (2013, sixth), Justin Gilbert (2014, eighth), Johnny Manziel (2014, 22nd), Danny Shelton (2015, 12th), Cameron Erving (2015, 19th), and Corey Coleman (2016, 15th)—were disappointments. Before Garrett, the last successful Browns first-round pick was cornerback Joe Haden in 2010.

Self-evaluation: Popping champagne for not screwing up

2. Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback, Chicago Bears

2021 option: Roughly $25 million (declined)

Less than six months after the Cubs broke their curse and won the World Series, the Bears made a decision that could haunt Chicago for decades. They traded a package of draft picks to the 49ers to move up one spot, from no. 3 to no. 2, and select Trubisky. Giving up picks to move up one spot was likely unnecessary, but the questions about draft-position value have been washed away by what’s happened since the 2017 draft: The Bears took Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, a decision that will go down in infamy. Few can say they envisioned Mahomes winning MVP and Super Bowl MVP within his first three seasons, but even at the time, the Bears’ decision to pick Trubisky was bizarre. Trubisky didn’t even start until his senior year at North Carolina. Meanwhile, Watson was a college football legend at Clemson who felled Alabama for a national championship on the field and radiated every leadership quality a team could want off of it (though some scouts considered Trubisky more pro-ready and worried about Watson’s decision-making).

But the Bears chose Trubisky, and three years into his NFL career—just when a quarterback is supposed to be making a big leap—Trubisky is still struggling with basic aspects of field vision. He has serious issues throwing to his left, making him the NFL’s Derek Zoolander.

Making matters worse is that Chicago’s defense has been so good over the past few seasons that Trubisky has had a low bar to clear. He’s failed to do so. Bears fans can’t help but wonder how good their team would be if Trubisky were even competent—or if their quarterback were someone else from the 2017 draft.

“The comparisons are out there and they are never going to stop,” Trubisky told reporters in December. “It’s kind of me, Pat, and Deshaun are kind of all grouped together because we are in the same draft class, drafted in the first round and all that. But there are no do-overs. We are where we are.”

For now. Next year, Trubisky will be somewhere else.

Self-evaluation: If Chicago forgave Steve Bartman, maybe it’ll forgive Mitchell too.

3. Solomon Thomas, Defensive End, San Francisco 49ers

2021 option: Roughly $15 million (declined)

In the summer of 2014, Solomon Thomas was a freshman at Stanford who was taking a summer course called “Introduction to Decision-Making.” To Thomas’s surprise, one of his classmates was longtime NFL safety John Lynch. The former Stanford standout was finishing his degree over the summer, and the two collaborated as they completed group projects. Thomas got a B+. Three years later, Lynch was hired as the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, and he made Thomas the first pick of his tenure. Not only did the 49ers get the player they wanted, but they made out like bandits by getting two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder from the Bears to move down one spot and take the player they wanted anyway.

San Francisco made the Super Bowl last season on the strength of its defensive line, which famously had five first-round picks. Four of those first-rounders were essential to the 49ers defense this season. The fifth was Thomas, who has just six sacks in three NFL seasons and has not made the impact the team had hoped for. The 49ers changed their defensive scheme after drafting Thomas, who switched positions from defensive end to defensive tackle. Lynch said that may have led Thomas to overthink his assignments: “I played at Stanford and there’s a lot of advantages to Stanford guys,” Lynch told The Athletic. “[But] sometimes there can be paralysis through analysis.”

The 49ers traded defensive captain and starter DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis this offseason and drafted defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, but Buckner’s departure could leave more room for Thomas to play in 2020.

Self-evaluation: Thomas earned a B+ at Stanford, but this pick hasn’t matched that grade.

4. Leonard Fournette, Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars

2021 option: Roughly $8 million (declined)

Using a pick this high on a running back is a terrible idea unless that player is God’s gift to earth. Speaking of, here is Leonard Fournette’s Twitter background …

It turns out not even divine intervention can change the running-back-value debate. In his first draft as head of the Jaguars’ front office, Tom Coughlin used his first pick on Fournette. But unlike Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley—two highly drafted backs who contribute in multiple ways—Fournette lacks versatility. He’s a bruising back who needs a long runway to take off, and isn’t a natural fit in the passing game. But for his skill set, he’s done his job. Out of 47 qualified rushers last year, Fournette ranked 43rd in yards before contact per attempt (1.4) and third in yards after contact per attempt (3.0). In other words, Fournette is getting yards even without great blocking. But he may not have the job with the Jags for much longer. GM Dave Caldwell acknowledged that Fournette’s name was discussed in trade talks this offseason.

“I think the mind-set is that we’re going to go forward with Leonard on the team,” Caldwell told Pro Football Talk last week. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement, but jettisoning star Jaguars is nothing new for Jacksonville. Coughlin burned so many bridges with the Jaguars players that the NFLPA sent a letter to free agents warning that the team has a habit of violating labor rules. After dealing star players like Jalen Ramsey and Calais Campbell, Jacksonville’s best remaining defensive player, Yannick Ngakoue, has spent the past month pleading for a trade on Twitter. By Jaguars standards, Fournette openly being on the trade block is tame.

Self-evaluation: Getting rid of Tom Coughlin is easier than fixing Tom Coughlin’s mistakes.

5. Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans

2021 option: Roughly $16 million (declined)

Davis was drafted to give quarterback Marcus Mariota a true no. 1 receiving option, but Mariota never became what the franchise envisioned, making it difficult to evaluate Davis. Making it even more challenging is that Davis has played with three offensive coordinators: Terry Robiskie in 2017 (when the Titans were still employing then–head coach Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth” offense), Matt LaFleur in 2018, and Arthur Smith in 2019. The Titans offense was far more productive once Ryan Tannehill became the starter, but Davis was not: In his final nine games, he averaged three catches for just over 40 yards per game.

The 6-foot-3 209-pounder has only six touchdowns in three years, and has surpassed 57 receiving yards in a game just eight times. Titans rookie A.J. Brown had more than twice as many 100-yard receiving games in 2019 (five) as Davis has in his career (two). Davis is happy to block for his teammates downfield, which is a quality receivers don’t always have. But considering his limited production and the price tag on the option, the Titans had little choice but to decline Davis’s.

Self-evaluation: Don’t draft a receiver no. 5 when your head coach is advocating for “exotic smashmouth” football.

6. Jamal Adams, Safety, New York Jets

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

Adams and the Jets nearly saw their relationship rupture in the middle of the 2019 season. Jets general manager Joe Douglas acknowledged he listened to trade offers for Adams, but Adams said he believed Douglas was the one seeking trades, not just taking calls: “I didn’t take that lightly,” Adams told reporters in October. “The Rams don’t take calls on Aaron Donald. The Patriots don’t take calls on Tom Brady. I hold myself in that regard.”

Many may balk at seeing Adams compare himself to Brady or Donald, but that is why Jets fans have come to love Adams. He is the best player the Jets have drafted in years and perhaps their best defensive player since Darrelle Revis. Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the NFL’s five top safeties in 2019. He is perhaps the best example of what every team is seeking in a safety-linebacker hybrid—he can cover receivers on the outside or in the slot, rush the passer, and fill in the run game. He also might be the most charismatic player in the NFL.

So when the rumors that the Jets were going to deal him surfaced, it’s no wonder Jets fans were dismayed. The Jets didn’t deal Adams during the draft, and Douglas told reporters last month that he wants to “keep Jamal here for a long time,” suggesting Adams may get a contract extension or a series of franchise tags in the future. Jets fans would be happy to secure their best—and perhaps only good—player.

Self-evaluation: This is the only nice thing the Jets have.

7. Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Chargers

2021 option: Roughly $16 million (exercised)

Williams broke his neck at Clemson and then missed most of his rookie season to leg injuries, but he has been effective since returning to health: He had 43 catches for 664 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2018, and 49 catches for 1,001 yards (with a league-leading 20.4 yards per catch) last season. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Williams has become one of the go-to jump-ball receivers in football. That style jelled with Philip Rivers, who tosses contested passes like he’s playing YOLO football. But now Williams will play with either Tyrod Taylor or rookie Justin Herbert at quarterback. Taylor is likely too conservative to toss Williams the jump balls he prefers, and Herbert moved through his reads slowly while at Oregon. Either will be a big change from Rivers, who signed with the Colts this offseason after 16 seasons with the Chargers. With Williams’s injury history and uncertain chemistry with these QBs, picking up this option may look like a mistake a year from now.

Self-evaluation: Incomplete until we see how he performs with his new quarterbacks.

8. Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Carolina Panthers

2021 option: Roughly $8 million (Signed a contract extension)

In 2019, McCaffrey became just the third player in NFL history to reach 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. But his stretch of greatness began midway through 2018, and he hasn’t slowed down since. Excluding Week 17 of the 2018 campaign, when he had only four rushing attempts and one target, McCaffrey has averaged 26 touches for 150 yards with 1.2 touchdowns in his past 24 games. He almost never comes off the field, as he played a ludicrous 93 percent of snaps last season, by far the most of any running back.

The Panthers signed McCaffrey to a four-year, $64 million extension in April, making him the highest-paid running back in the sport on an average annual basis. The recent history of similar deals is concerning, as just about every big contract signed by running backs in 2017 and 2018 flopped, from Todd Gurley in Los Angeles to Devonta Freeman in Atlanta to Jerick McKinnon in San Francisco. McCaffrey got more money than all of those players, though the Panthers have youth on their side. McCaffrey turns 24 in June, putting him on schedule to give the Panthers his most productive years.

The Panthers signed head coach Matt Rhule to a massive seven-year, $62 million contract, signaling Carolina is in for a long-term rebuild. Investing in a running back may seem like the opposite of a long-term strategy, but the team needs a face of the franchise during what may be a few lean years.

Self evaluation: Carolina snagged the best nonquarterback offensive player in the draft.

9. John Ross, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals

2021 option: Roughly $16 million (declined)

John Ross’s 4.22-second 40-yard dash is the fastest on record at the combine, but his NFL career is off to a slow start. Ross has just 49 catches for 716 receiving yards in three years, and injuries have kept him out of 24 Bengals games since he was drafted. Almost 40 percent of his career receiving yards came in the first two weeks of 2019. Remove those two games, and he averages 20 receiving yards per appearance—far from the 21.8 yards per catch he averaged as a sophomore at the University of Washington. In April, the Bengals drafted Tee Higgins out of Clemson with the first pick of the second round, putting Ross fourth on the depth chart at best behind A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Higgins. Ross is a one-trick pony who isn’t always good at his one trick.


[Closes eyes.]
[Plugs ears.]
[Tries not to think how Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes were both available.]

10. Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs

2021 option: Roughly $24 million (exercised, duh)

The Chiefs traded up to this spot to take Patrick Mahomes because Andy Reid saw flashes of Brett Favre in him. In two seasons as a starter, Mahomes has already been named MVP of the regular season and the Super Bowl. That alone makes him not only one of the best picks of this draft, but one of the best picks in years. He joined Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in 2018 as the only players with 50 passing touchdowns in a season, has reached two AFC championship games, and starred on the cover of Madden. Mahomes should become the highest-paid player in NFL history at some point in the next 14 months, possibly becoming football’s first $40-million-per-year man (not counting Roger Goodell).


11. Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, New Orleans Saints

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

Lattimore serves as the Saints’ no. 1 corner, which means he matches up against Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans twice each year. And he’s been up to the task: He won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, made the Pro Bowl twice, and was instrumental in turning around a Saints defense that was among the league’s worst into an above-average unit. In the three seasons before Lattimore showed up, the Saints never ranked better than 28th in points allowed. In the past three seasons, the Saints haven’t fallen below 14th.

Self-evaluation: Possibly more instrumental to the Saints’ success than anyone besides Drew Brees.

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs
Deshaun Watson
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

12. Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Houston Texans

2021 option: Roughly $17.5 million (exercised)

It took 15 years, but Houston finally found The Guy. The Texans have been looking for a franchise quarterback since the team’s inception in 2002, and Watson jolted Texans fans awake from his first start of his rookie season ...

… And submitted one of the most amazing plays in franchise history in a wild-card win against the Bills this past January.

Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are the most fun players to watch in football, but Deshaun Watson has a serious claim to be third.

Watson has inched closer and closer to MVP-caliber play in the past three years, but numbers don’t do justice to his confidence, which he’s played with since he was a College Football Lord at Clemson. Texans fans felt head coach and GM Bill O’Brien was holding Watson back before O’Brien traded away DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. Now Houston and Watson will likely negotiate a potentially record-setting contract extension, which the Texans reportedly want to get done before the season begins.

Self evaluation: Ride or die with Deshaun.

13. Haason Reddick, Linebacker, Arizona Cardinals

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (declined)

Reddick, a walk-on at Temple, was an undersized defensive end transitioning to linebacker in the NFL. The idea was his athleticism and versatility would both be assets, but none of the three Cardinals coaching staffs he’s played for have kept him at one position long enough to evaluate him. Under Bruce Arians, Reddick started in a 3-4 scheme at inside linebacker but moved to outside linebacker. When Steve Wilks replaced Arians as head coach in 2018, Reddick transitioned to 4-3 linebacker. But in 2019, the Cardinals went back to a 3-4 defense under Kliff Kingsbury, and Reddick played as both an inside and outside linebacker. The shuffling did not help develop his skill set. Last season, Reddick ranked 86th out of the 87 edge defenders in Pro Football Focus grading (minimum 400 snaps).

Self evaluation: Coaching carousel casualty.

14. Derek Barnett, Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

Derek Barnett has already paid his due in Philadelphia after recovering the Super Bowl–winning fumble forced by Brandon Graham. Beyond that one play, Barnett was somewhat disappointing in his first three years, and injuries have often kept him off the field, but he showed improvement in 2019. After playing in just six games in 2018 because of a shoulder injury, Barnett led the Eagles in quarterback hits last year with 22. Barnett has earned the respect of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who praised the defensive end for playing through an injury late last last year.

“I think he’s always been a guy that will lay it all on the line,” Schwartz told reporters. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, not the fastest guy in the world, but he is one of the toughest guys in the world, and just brings such a presence when he’s on the field.”

Self evaluation: You can’t put a price on winning the Super Bowl.

15. Malik Hooker, Safety, Indianapolis Colts

2021 option: Roughly $7 million (declined)

“Malik was solid,” Colts GM Chris Ballard told reporters after the 2019 season. “Wouldn’t say he was great.” It was a candid answer from Ballard, who made Hooker his first pick as Colts GM. Hooker, a star at Ohio State, was compared to Ed Reed coming out of college. No college safety should ever be compared to Ed Reed, but Hooker made the comparison seem apt after intercepting three passes in seven games as a rookie. But he tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee and missed the rest of his rookie season, and he’s had trouble staying healthy in the years since. Even when Hooker is on the field, his play has been inconsistent. If Hooker has a strong 2020 season, he could be in a position to earn an even bigger contract than his $6.8 million extension.

Self-evaluation: He’s not Ed Reed, but has the potential to be a solid contributor if he’s healthy.

16. Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Baltimore Ravens

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

When the Baltimore Ravens embarrassed the New England Patriots in a 37-20 win in November, the attention went to quarterback Lamar Jackson. But Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon threw praise onto Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, the former Alabama cornerback who has blossomed into one of Baltimore’s key defenders: “Week in and week out, our best player,” Judon told The Athletic after the game.

Humphrey ended the year as one of three players with at least three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. (Humphrey brought two fumble recoveries back for touchdowns.) Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the top 24 cornerbacks in football each of the past two seasons. Most importantly, his cat, Snowflake, has one of the cutest Instagrams of any pro athlete.

Jackson and the Ravens’ record-setting offense gets all the credit, but Baltimore’s defense is a huge reason they are expected to contend for a Super Bowl. Expect Humphrey and Snowflake to be in Baltimore for a long time.

Self-evaluation: Protect Snowflake at all costs.

17. Jonathan Allen, Defensive Lineman, Washington Redskins

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

At just 25 years old, Jonathan Allen is the captain of Washington’s defense. When the team lost to Chicago on Monday Night Football last September to drop its record to 0-3, Allen showed why he’s the man for the job.

“There ain’t no magic sauce to get this thing turned around,” he told reporters. “It’s just doing the little things right. And that’s what we’ve gotta do. Like I said, if you’re not going to support us now, which you shouldn’t because we’re playing like motherfucking shit, I don’t know what you want me to tell you. Don’t support us now, don’t support us later. But we gonna circle the wagons in this motherfucker and we’re gonna get shit right. Believe that.”

Allen, who played for Alabama’s defense en route to a College Football Playoff national championship, is the soul and centerpiece of a franchise being rebuilt around talent from winning college programs like the Crimson Tide. He has 15 sacks in three NFL seasons, and may now be the key to sparking a Washington turnaround. The roster has five first-rounders along its defensive line, with Allen and fellow Alabama tackle Da’Ron Payne on the inside and Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, and 2020 no. 2 pick Chase Young rushing the passer. Head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have a load of talent to get to opposing QBs, and Allen is leading the charge.

Self-evaluation: Allen brings sauce, even if it isn’t magic sauce.

AFC Championship - Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs
Adoree’ Jackson
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

18. Adoree’ Jackson, Cornerback, Tennessee Titans

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

The Titans declined the option on 2017 no. 5 pick Corey Davis, but exercised the fifth-year option on Jackson, who has become a key cornerback for the team. Jackson was both a football and track star at USC, where he won the 2015 Pac-12 championship in the long jump and nearly qualified for the 2016 Olympic trials. He has similarly thrived in the NFL. Last season he was the league’s 12th-highest-graded corner, per Pro Football Focus grades (minimum 400 snaps), one spot higher than the Cowboys’ Byron Jones, who’s the second-highest-paid player at the position. With Logan Ryan leaving the Titans, Jackson will likely take on more responsibility in head coach Mike Vrabel’s defense.

Self-evaluation: Send a thank you note to the Rams for giving Tennessee two tries in this round.

19. O.J. Howard, Tight End, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2021 option: Roughly $6 million (Exercised)

O.J. Howard stands 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, and ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the combine. That makes him bigger and faster than star Tampa Bay teammate Mike Evans. Yet Howard has barely tapped into his potential. He’s one of just 19 rookie tight ends ever to catch six touchdown passes in a season, yet has somehow failed to catch more than 34 balls in a year, and hasn’t topped 565 receiving yards despite Jameis Winston leading the league in passing yards and tying for the lead in pass attempts in 2019.

Howard has all of the tools to be an NFL star, but he has never put them together successfully. And now he’ll have to scrap for playing time with Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement and joining fellow tight end Cameron Brate on the roster. The Buccaneers picking up Howard’s option doesn’t mean the team won’t move on from him a year from now—or sooner.

Self-evaluation: For sale: tight end, never used.

20. Garett Bolles, Offensive Tackle, Denver Broncos

2021 option: $11 million (declined)

Bolles has never developed the technique to succeed in the pros, so instead he’s resorted to penalties. In each of the last three seasons, he led all players in holding calls and has ranked among the top five in total penalties, according to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold. Including penalties that were declined, Bolles has been flagged 46 times in 48 games.

Bolles was drafted out of Utah as part of GM John Elway’s ongoing attempt to rebuild the offensive line, but never showed that he was capable of playing at an NFL level.

Self-evaluation: “One thing about Garett, he was available.” That’s an actual quote from Elway on Bolles’s 2019 season.

21. Jarrad Davis, Linebacker, Detroit Lions

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (declined)

The Lions drafted Davis for his work ethic and versatility, but he simply hasn’t been able to produce. Davis ranked 63rd of 72 linebackers in Pro Football Focus 2018 grading (minimum 400 snaps), then fell to 67th out of 70 linebackers in 2019. The Lions signed former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins in March, who played for head coach Matt Patricia when the latter worked as the defensive coordinator in New England. The Lions also signed free-agent linebacker Reggie Ragland in March, and drafted Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai in the 2019 second round. It’s clear the team is prepared to let Davis go—and potentially reduce his playing time in 2020.

Self-evaluation: Good linebackers are harder to find when Bill Belichick isn’t around.

22. Charles Harris, Linebacker, Miami Dolphins

2021 Option: Roughly $10 million (declined)

The Dolphins traded Harris to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick earlier this month, and the Falcons declined Harris’s option the day after the swap. Harris had the second-most tackles for loss in the SEC during his final season at Missouri in 2015, but has barely made a dent in the NFL: He has just 3.5 sacks in 41 games. In 2019 Harris ranked 95th among 96 edge defenders in pass rush productivity, according to Pro Football Focus (minimum 200 pass rush snaps).

“I think he gets frustrated sometimes,” former Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke told reporters in September 2018. “He hasn’t had as many of the positive results—end results—statistically. He’s had a lot of pressures for us and affected plays but he just hasn’t had that putting up sack numbers, which I think he gets frustrated by sometimes.”

He’ll get a chance to prove himself in this contract year in Atlanta, where he can help resuscitate a moribund pass rush. That Falcons had the third-lowest pressure rate in the NFL last year.

Self-evaluation: T.J. Watt, who was available in this spot, had more sacks against the Dolphins last season (2.0) than Harris had in his last 26 games combined (1.5). Yikes.

23. Evan Engram, Tight End, New York Giants

2021 option: Roughly $6 million (exercised)

The Giants drafted Engram to be more of a physical in-line receiver than a blocker, and he’s developed into one of the offense’s more reliable options when he’s on the field. But Engram has had injury issues the last two years. A foot injury cost him the final seven games of last season and required surgery; head, knee, and hamstring issues cost him much of 2018. This offseason the Giants brought in Levine Toilolo, a blocking tight end, implying that they’re not worried about Engram’s health for 2020. He’s expected to play a large role for new coordinator Jason Garrett, who has historically relied on tight ends.

Self-evaluation: Inadvertently the Giants’ best pass catcher.

24. Gareon Conley, Cornerback, Oakland Raiders

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (declined)

The Raiders dealt Conley to Houston for a third-round pick at last year’s trade deadline, and the Texans declined Conley’s fifth-year option at the end of April. Conley played admirably well in Houston after returning from a scary neck injury, and is expected to start for the team with longtime corner Johnathan Joseph leaving for division-rival Tennessee this offseason.

Self-evaluation: Maybe the Texans should hire an actual GM.

25. Jabrill Peppers, Safety, Cleveland Browns

2021 option: Roughly $7 million (exercised)

In addition to Engram, the Giants also picked up the fifth-year option for safety Jabrill Peppers, whom they got from Cleveland as part of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade package. General manager Dave Gettleman asked for two first-rounders in exchange for Beckham, but settled for an offer built around one first-rounder and Peppers, who Gettleman said was equivalent to a first-round pick. “Franchise-tag value is two first-round picks,” Gettleman told reporters at the time. “We got two ones and a three, one of them being a player.”

Peppers lined up at 11 different positions during his college career at Michigan, including safety, cornerback, nickel corner, and linebacker. He even took a few snaps at quarterback, running back, and receiver. Peppers was outstanding enough to be a Heisman Trophy finalist, but has yet to make a high-level difference in the NFL. In Cleveland he often played far from the line of scrimmage under coordinator Gregg Williams. In his first season in New York, Peppers played decently before a back injury ended his season.

Self-evaluation: Say what you want about the Beckham trade, but John Dorsey has since been fired and Gettleman has not.

26. Takkarist McKinley, Defensive End, Atlanta Falcons

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (declined)

The Falcons invested heavily in their pass rush by drafting Clemson’s Vic Beasley with the 2015 no. 8 pick and UCLA’s McKinley at no. 26 in 2017. That strategy hasn’t paid dividends. Atlanta had one of the worst pass rushes in football last year, with a bottom-four pressure rate despite spending the 11th-most money on its front seven. The Falcons had seven sacks through eight games in 2019; at the time, that total was fewer than 10 players had. The Falcons made the mistake of keeping Beasley onboard for his fifth-year option, but didn’t repeat history with McKinley. He has the third-most sacks in this class with 16.5, but hasn’t been the edge presence the Falcons anticipated.

Self-evaluation: Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff put “find a pass rusher” on his to-do list for the seventh offseason in a row.

27. Tre’Davious White, Cornerback, Buffalo Bills

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

White has developed into one of the league’s premier cornerbacks and was named first-team All-Pro in 2019. He tied for the league lead in interceptions (six) last season, and Pro Football Focus found that he was the first player to lead the NFL in interceptions without allowing a touchdown in the 14 years the company has been tracking the sport. White is one of the few cornerbacks who can successfully shadow opposing no. 1 receivers. Among defenders who faced 60 pass targets, he had the second-best opposing passer rating (38.9).

The Bills may feel slightly haunted by this pick because they traded out of the no. 10 spot in a deal with Kansas City, who promptly selected Patrick Mahomes. But it’s unlikely the Bills would have taken Mahomes there anyway, so Buffalo fans can rejoice landing an All-Pro cornerback at the back of the first round. The next step is signing White to a potentially record-setting contract extension.

Self evaluation: How perfectly Bills is it for Buffalo to have the second-best cornerback in football … but be second-best to the Patriots’ top guy?

28. Taco Charlton, Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys

2021 option: N/A

Charlton has already been cut twice. He had nine sacks over three seasons for Dallas and Miami, but started just 12 times across 37 appearances. Owner Jerry Jones said Charlton’s biggest issue was motivation. “For whatever the reason, that area of Taco—it has much to do with his own disappointment, his own feeling he can do better,” Jones told reporters last year. “I’ve seen him do a rep at practice. Saw it this year in training camp. And when he didn’t get there, he just wilted. It just looked like it impacted everything he was going to do for the rest of the practice.”

Dallas waived Charlton in mid-September after he tweeted “free me” when he wasn’t listed on the game-day roster for the first two weeks of the season. The Dolphins took a flier on Charlton, but released him on April 30, voiding the possibility of a fifth-year option.

Self-evaluation: Burritos are better anyway.

29. David Njoku, Tight End, Cleveland Browns

2021 option: Roughly $6 million (exercised)

The Browns exercising this option is somewhat surprising. Njoku went on injured reserve with a broken wrist and a concussion in September, all but ending what was supposed to be his breakout season before it began. In the offseason, Cleveland signed former Falcons tight end Austin Hooper to a four-year deal with $23 million guaranteed and took Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the draft. Yet while those investments seem like a plan to replace Njoku, GM Andrew Berry said the 2017 pick remains part of the team’s plans.

“To David in particular, our perspective remains the same,” Berry told reporters after the draft. “I have been pretty consistent this offseason in terms of we still have a ton of belief in David. He is very talented. Obviously, he was not on the field much last year, but he is a guy with outstanding physical tools, he has proven NFL production, and we still think the future is very bright with him here.”

Self-evaluation: The focus in Cleveland’s offense is on Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry. The focus on Cleveland’s tight end depth chart may soon be on Austin Hooper.

30. T.J. Watt, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (exercised)

Watt leads this entire draft class in sacks (34.5) and quarterback hits (70). He tied for the fourth-most sacks (14.5) and QB pressures (81) among all defenders in 2019. On a per-snap basis, Watt had last season’s second-highest pass-rush pressure rate, according to Pro Football Focus, just behind Green Bay’s Za’Darius Smith and ahead of Denver’s Von Miller. Watt has been one of the cogs in a Pittsburgh defense that is sneakily among the NFL’s best at rushing the passer.

The Steelers have led the league in sacks in each of the three years since Watt arrived in town. Watt may end up with a contract extension that surpasses the six-year, $52 guaranteed deal that his brother J.J. signed with Houston in 2014. Speaking of which, here are the Watt brothers racing out of the ocean.

Self-evaluation: Why did 29 other teams not realize it was smart to draft J.J. Watt’s brother?

31. Reuben Foster, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers

2021 option: Roughly $10 million (declined)

Foster was arrested on a count of first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence battery the night before the 49ers played the Buccaneers in November 2018. The 49ers released him the day after the arrest, and Washington was the lone team to place a waiver claim for him that week. While the charges against Foster were later dropped, he has not played since the arrest. He spent the remainder of 2018 on the commissioner’s exempt list and missed 2019 after tearing both his ACL and LCL.

Entering the 2017 draft, the 49ers had Myles Garrett as the no. 1 player on their board, Solomon Thomas as the no. 2 player, and Foster at no. 3, according to Peter King. Niners general manager John Lynch was reportedly willing to take Foster with the third pick if the Bears chose Thomas at no. 2. Instead Chicago took Trubisky, the 49ers got Thomas at no. 3, and San Francisco traded with the Seahawks to select the Alabama linebacker late in the first round.

Self-evaluation: Trading up to pick Foster was a mistake.

32. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, New Orleans Saints

2021 option: Roughly $11 million (exercised)

The Saints snagged perhaps the best right tackle in the NFL with this pick. Ramczyk was named first-team All-Pro in 2019 after giving up zero sacks, one quarterback hit, and just 19 hurries during the regular season. Those 20 total pressures were tied for the lowest amount of any tackle, with Houston’s Laremy Tunsil and Kansas City’s Mitchell Schwartz (minimum 500 pass blocking snaps).

Ramczyk finished as the highest-graded offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus in 2019. In three seasons, he has played all but one game. Garett Bolles, the Broncos tackle who was the only other offensive lineman drafted in this round, committed more holding penalties over the past two years (13) than Ramczyk has penalties in his career (11).

Self-evaluation: Did you know the Saints grabbed Alvin Kamara two rounds after this?