NFL News & Analysis

Premium Content Sign Up

What scouts missed for players who just had their fifth-year options declined

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.

[Editor’s note: Subscribe to PFF ELITE today to gain access to PFF’s Premium Stats and new Player Grades experience in addition to the 2020 NFL Draft Guide2020 Fantasy Rookie Scouting ReportPFF Greenline, all of PFF’s premium article content and more.]

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.

Subscribe to PFF Edge to continue reading

Already have a subscription? Sign In

You've got the first pick with your finances. Western Southern Financial Group.

NFL Featured Tools

  • Live picks, grades and reaction to the 2022 NFL Draft.

  • PFF's Big Board for the 2023 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2022 draft class.

    Available with

  • PFF's exclusive metrics provide matchup previews, position rankings, grades, and snap counts.

    Available with

  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NFL player performance data.

    Available with

Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr