The deadline for franchises to extend their fifth-year options to 2017 first-rounders came and went last week, and an incredible half of the top-10 picks were told, “Thanks, but no thanks.” It goes to show what we all know already: Draft evaluation is far from an exact science. There were red flags in all the 14 first-rounders who had their options declined that eventually reared their ugly heads. These are the warning signs that were overlooked three years ago.
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Pick 2: Chicago Bears: QB Mitch Trubisky
What Was Overlooked: Not Beating Out Marquise Williams
Easily the biggest red flag for the second-overall pick was that he couldn't take the starting job at North Carolina a year and a half earlier from an an eventual UDFA quarterback in Marquise Williams. That 2015 North Carolina team went 11-3 under Williams’ guidance before slipping back to 8-5 with Trubisky in 2016. The quarterback position still suffers from small sample sizes — only seeing one season from Trubisky with an 86.4 passing grade was quite obviously not enough to be certain about what was to come.
Pick 3: San Francisco 49ers: ED Solomon Thomas
What Was Overlooked: The Positional Fit
We designate Thomas as an edge defender here because that’s what the 49ers wanted when they took him third overall, but at Stanford he was a 273-pound 3-4 defensive end. Thomas played a grand total of 67 snaps outside the tackles his final season with the Cardinal and earned a 60.0 overall grade on those snaps. PFF's scouting profile on him warned that he “may not have a true position.” Thomas was a dominant force with his first step against the run on the interior, but he was a complete unknown going up against tackles. That 60.0 grade has been about what the 49ers have gotten as an edge defender the past three seasons.
Pick 4: Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette
What Was Overlooked: Running Style
Fournette thrived at LSU with his absurd combination of size and speed. The 240-pounder was a load for teenagers to bring down, and his highlight reel is up there with the all-timers. The problem was that he only had one way of breaking tackles: charging full-on with a head of steam. Because of that, he attacked the line of scrimmage with a recklessness that he could get away with due to the space afforded in college. That hasn’t been the case in Jacksonville — if the initial point of attack is clogged up, Fournette doesn’t usually have a plan B. His stop/start and make-you-miss ability simply isn’t there.