Analysis

Weighing fifth-year options for 2019 NFL Draft's first-round picks: To exercise or not to exercise?

Players chosen in the 2019 NFL Draft just finished their third regular season, and that means one thing for the first-round picks from that class: It's decision time on the fifth-year option.

The window opened Monday for NFL teams to pick up the option, with the final deadline set for May 2. So, which players deserve an extension on the rookie contract through the 2023 campaign?

Let's take a look at all 32 selections from Round 1 back in 2019, and I'll provide my opinion on whether or not each player merits the fifth-year option.

Pick
1
Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · QB

Exercise the option? Yes.


Murray has gained more confidence and improved in each of his first three seasons in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. We have watched the young quarterback play at an MVP level when healthy, and his playmaking ability and leadership have the Cardinals back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. He could be in line to be the next highest-paid quarterback.

Pick
2
Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers · DE

Exercise the option? Yes.


Despite missing nearly the entire 2020 season with a knee injury, the healthy Bosa has been everything evaluators thought he would be as an absolute game-wrecker. The production speaks for itself, as Bosa compiled 24.5 sacks (15.5 in 2021), 37 tackles for loss and 57 QB hits over the course of his two full seasons in 2019 and 2021. But the man also has the accolades, with the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year award and two Pro Bowl bids to his name.

Pick
3
Quinnen Williams
New York Jets · DT

Exercise the option? No.


Williams has been solid, flashing at times with 15.5 sacks over his first three seasons. However, the reality is that he hasn't provided the impact nor lived up to billing of a player taken No. 3 overall, and Williams knows it. If he'd been taken later on, I would feel a little bit better about what he's provided and maybe would pick up his option.

Pick
4
Clelin Ferrell
Las Vegas Raiders · DE

Exercise the option? No.


Ferrell did not made a single start in 2021 and has compiled just eight sacks over three seasons. Maxx Crosby was taken in the fourth round of the same draft, and he's been a much bigger contributor with 25 career sacks, including a double-digit rookie campaign. Ferrell was definitely the most controversial first-round pick of this class and will go down as one of the bigger busts in recent years.

Pick
5
Devin White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · LB

Exercise the option? Yes.


White has been everything the Bucs wanted as an explosive, productive, do-it-all linebacker. He's become one of the top LBs in the NFL after taking his game to the next level during the Bucs' Super Bowl run, when he had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 38 tackles (three for a loss) in three playoff games. For everything White's done up to this point and everything he will do for this organization, it's a no-brainer to pick up his option and eventually take care of him with an extension.

Pick
6
Daniel Jones
New York Giants · QB

Exercise the option? No.


I think there is a small group of people still holding out hope that Jones can be The Guy for Big Blue. But we've seen the lack of winning and production, the poor decision-making and the injuries over the course of his three NFL seasons. Not to mention, turnovers have been a HUGE issue for Jones, with 49 in 38 games. While he admittedly has played behind a poor offensive line, Jones still just hasn't shown he's worthy of leading the franchise to greener pastures with a 12-25 record as the starter.

Pick
7
Josh Allen
Jacksonville Jaguars · OLB

Exercise the option? Yes.


Pick up the option and get working on an extension. Allen has continued to show he is one of the NFL's best young pass rushers, as highlighted during his historic game vs. Bills quarterback Josh Allen. The third-year pro enjoyed a breakout debut season, setting a franchise rookie sack record (10.5) and becoming the first Jacksonville rookie to earn a Pro Bowl nod. He was slowed by injuries in 2020, but got back to showing his pass-rushing explosiveness this season, with 7.5 sacks and his first career interception (vs. Allen in Week 9). This is a defensive pillar for the Jags to build around.

Pick
8
T.J. Hockenson
Detroit Lions · TE

Exercise the option? Yes.


A Pro Bowl selection in 2020, Hockenson has been an all-around tight end -- with ability in the upper echelon of the position -- and safety blanket for every Lions quarterback. He's a key player for the offense to build around moving forward.

Pick
9
Ed Oliver
Buffalo Bills · DT

Exercise the option? No.


Similar to Quinnen Williams in New York, Oliver's situation might be different had he been taken later in the first round, but he hasn't provided a consistent impact. He's a liability in the run game -- Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier often take him out on such plays -- and if this is your reality as a defensive tackle, you must provide in the pass game. He hasn't done that with 12 total sacks over three seasons.

Pick
10
Devin Bush
Pittsburgh Steelers · LB

Exercise the option? No.


Bush was a highly touted linebacker in this class alongside Devin White, but we haven't seen him live up to that potential. He had a solid rookie campaign (109 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two INTs, a forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, one sack), but was out for most of 2020 with a knee injury and has really struggled with his game in Year 3. With just two sacks, 70 tackles (two for loss) and a forced fumble this season, Bush hasn't been able to consistently impact Pittsburgh's defense like others in the unit have. As a top-10 pick, he's expected to do just that.

Pick
11
Jonah Williams
Cincinnati Bengals · OT

Exercise the option? Yes.


After missing the entire 2019 with a shoulder injury, Williams has quietly been a solid player at left tackle for the Bengals. He gets lost in the team's stellar young nucleus as a good (not yet great) player who has improved year over year. Williams, who led the Bengals in offensive snaps this season, is a reliable cornerstone to build the O-line around.

Pick
12
Rashan Gary
Green Bay Packers · OLB

Exercise the option? Yes.


Gary was raw coming out of Michigan, but learning and developing behind Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith has paid dividends, as we've seen Gary take off in Year 3. In his 16 starts this season, he posted a career-high and team-leading 9.5 sacks and added two forced fumbles as a bright spot of Green Bay's defense. He also led the team in pressures with 87, 17 more than the next-closest Packer (Kenny Clark), according to Pro Football Focus.

Pick
13
Christian Wilkins
Miami Dolphins · DT

Exercise the option? Yes.


Wilkins has played well -- much better, in fact, than the two defensive tackles drafted before him. He has impacted the Dolphins' defense in a big way, especially this season with career-highs in tackles (89), tackles for loss (10), QB hits (13) and sacks (4.5). The Clemson product should continue to be a mainstay up front.

Pick
14
Chris Lindstrom
Atlanta Falcons · OG

Exercise the option? No.


The Falcons thought they had solidified their offensive line with two first-rounders in this draft, but that's been far from the case. Lindstrom has struggled across three seasons in my view. He has excelled in the run game, as PFF's fourth-ranked run-blocking guard in 2021, but struggles in pass pro -- which is a big concern with an immobile, aging quarterback.

Pick
15
Dwayne Haskins
Pittsburgh Steelers · QB

Exercise the option? N/A


Original draft team: Washington Football Team


Haskins was released by Washington less than two seasons into his rookie contract after a series of events created a wedge between the player and team. Shortly thereafter, the quarterback signed a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Steelers, and is now set to become a restricted free agent in March.

Pick
16
Brian Burns
Carolina Panthers · DE

Exercise the option? Yes.


Burns is one of the NFL's best up-and-coming edge rushers with 25.5 sacks in his first three seasons. Getting a Pro Bowl nod in 2021, the playmaking DE continues to get better while transitioning into a foundational piece for the Panthers' defense.

Pick
17
Dexter Lawrence
New York Giants · DT

Exercise the option? No.


This was the second surprising pick for the Giants in this draft. Lawrence came in as a massive two-down run-stopper and he's been just OK at that. He hasn't been an impact player nor provided enough pressure in the pass game. I don't expect the Giants to double down on him.

Pick
18
Garrett Bradbury
Minnesota Vikings · C

Exercise the option? Yes.


Bradbury has been a solid foundational piece along Minnesota's offensive line. He's missed just four games in three seasons and played well enough for the Vikings to exercise the fifth-year option. An extension is nothing they need to rush into, but they should eventually consider it, with Bradbury being good enough to rank in the top half of NFL centers.

Pick
19
Jeffery Simmons
Tennessee Titans · DT

Exercise the option? Yes.


Similar to Christian Wilkins in Miami, Simmons has provided an explosive impact for the Titans against both the pass and run games. There is no question that he's the young star of Mike Vrabel's defensive line with a breakout 2021 performance that's seen Simmons reach a career-high 8.5 sacks. He's improved with each passing season and looks to make a splash in this postseason.

Pick
20
Noah Fant
Denver Broncos · TE

Exercise the option? Yes.


Fant came off the board as the second tight end -- second Iowa tight end, more specifically -- with T.J. Hockenson being the more consistent all-around player and Fant being the flashier threat. To me, Fant has made enough plays as an enticing piece of the Broncos' talented offense to be worth the option, but because of his inconsistencies and struggles as a blocker, I don't think the Broncos should rush into a long-term deal.

Pick
21
Darnell Savage
Green Bay Packers · S

Exercise the option? No.


Savage created a lot of buzz in his second season with a number of big plays and interceptions (four) -- a lot of which he fell into -- but he's come back down to earth in 2021. He has looked lost in coverage at times and the run support isn't there. I wouldn't exercise the option right now because I think the Packers can draft another player with better value.

Pick
22
Andre Dillard
Philadelphia Eagles · OT

Exercise the option? No.


Dillard has been a major disappointment for the Eagles. They thought the Washington State product would be a foundational left tackle to build around. He's been anything but that. Philly has tried to find a home for him, but he's more of a depth piece when all players along the line are healthy. The Eagles just gave Jordan Mailata, a 2018 seventh-rounder with no previous football experience, to a four-year deal, so Dillard will likely get a fresh start somewhere else soon.

Pick
23
Tytus Howard
Houston Texans · OL

Exercise the option? No.


I was surprised when Houston drafted Howard here because of his limitations, and unfortunately for the Texans, Howard hasn't lived up to his draft standing. They have attempted to move him around the offensive line, but it hasn't helped. Howard's highest overall PFF grade for a season was 62.1 in 2020. That's pretty telling.

Pick
24
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · RB

Exercise the option? Yes.


Jacobs is undoubtedly a good player, so I'd expect the Raiders to pick up his fifth-year option. However, they shouldn't rush into a long-term deal because of the nature of the running back position. He is still young with plenty left in the tank, and he's lived up to being a first-round pick with 1,000-plus rushing yards in each of his first two years before adding another 1,200 scrimmage yards in 2021. That said, second contracts can be risky business with bell-cow backs.

Pick
25
Marquise Brown
Baltimore Ravens · WR

Exercise the option? Yes.


Brown hasn't been exactly what the Ravens hoped he'd be. Sure, he's made enough big-time plays, but we've also seen some issues with drops (16 in three seasons) and health problems. It's worth exercising his option, but I would hold off on an extension.

Pick
26
Montez Sweat
Washington Football Team · DE

Exercise the option? Yes.


Washington should pick up the option knowing Sweat, who's flashed at times with 21 sacks over three seasons, has a lot left to give. The Football Team just paid Jonathan Allen, but they have a lot of decisions looming in the next few years with Daron Payne and Chase Young, among others. I do think Sweat has shown promising signs, but want to see more on a consistent basis.

Pick
27
Johnathan Abram
Las Vegas Raiders · S

Exercise the option? No.


Abram was enjoying his best season as part of Gus Bradley's defense until a shoulder injury requiring surgery cut his 2021 campaign short. A shoulder injury also kept him off the field for all but one game of his rookie season. When available, Abram is limited and a liability in coverage. Bottom line: Having a box safety with shoulder injuries is a scary prospect to pay.

Pick
28
Jerry Tillery
Los Angeles Chargers · DT

Exercise the option? Yes.


Tillery is in the same boat as Montez Sweat. He has been an impactful playmaker for the Chargers when used the right way, but he's not consistent enough. If the splash plays become more routine in the near future, there's a chance L.A. decides to extend Tillery, depending on where the market goes.

Pick
29
L.J. Collier
Seattle Seahawks · DE

Exercise the option? No.


After starting all 16 games in 2020, Collier didn't have a single start this season, as Seattle played him sparingly in a backup role. He was a surprise pick here for the Seahawks and has been a major disappointment, having compiled a mere three career sacks.

Pick
30
Deandre Baker
Kansas City Chiefs · CB

Exercise the option? N/A


Original draft team: New York Giants


Baker was released by the Giants following a 2020 arrest, from which all charges were eventually dropped. He has been with the Chiefs in some capacity (practice squad/active roster) since November 2020. 

Pick
31
Kaleb McGary
Atlanta Falcons · OT

Exercise the option? No.


Matt Ryan has been sacked 48, 41 and 40 times over the past three seasons, with McGary giving up 27 of those. He gets beat far too often and is a backup-level talent.

32
N'Keal Harry
New England Patriots · WR

Exercise the option? No.


Harry's trials over his first three seasons are well known, as he's suffered injuries, been a healthy scratch and has performed far below the expectations of a first-round receiver. His best campaign with the Patriots came in 2020, when he had 33 catches for 309 yards and two TDs in 14 games (nine starts).

Follow Marc Ross on Twitter.

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