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

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).

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