The 2015 1st-round NFL Draft picks are falling short
Not even four years into their NFL careers, 12 first-round picks from the 2015 NFL Draft are on a different team than the one that drafted them and only 21 of the 32 players are starters. Following last week’s NFL trade deadline, nine players selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft have been traded in their short four-year NFL careers. On top of that, another three players are on different teams than the ones who drafted them, and 12 failed to have the fifth-year option on their rookie contract picked up. It’s fair to say the 2015 first-rounders have been a disappointment as a group. The first overall pick, Jameis Winston is currently being benched to allow for journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick to start at quarterback for the Buccaneers. The jury is still out on No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota; though, at least he is starting for the Titans. The No. 3 and No. 4 overall picks were traded last week. Dante Fowler went from the Jaguars to the Rams, and Amari Cooper was shipped from the Raiders to the Cowboys. Before he was traded, Fowler had a slew of off-the-field issues. Due to some bad injury luck Brandon Scherff (the No. 5 overall pick), was placed on injured reserve this week by Washington. Kevin White (pick No. 7) was a healthy scratch in the Bears’ Week 9 win over the Bills. White not playing is especially noteworthy as Chicago had a seventh-round rookie and a guy who was promoted from the practice squad one day prior playing at wide receiver in that game. The Giants attempted to trade Ereck Flowers (pick No. 9) in October, but that ended fruitlessly so they cut him. The Jaguars then signed him to a much cheaper deal and he’s currently a backup for Jacksonville. Cooper (the No. 4 overall pick) is a great player looking to revive his career in Dallas. But it seems the 10th overall pick has been the most successful among the 2015 first-rounders thus far. That pick was none other than Rams running back Todd Gurley. He led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2017, and currently leads the NFL in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and total touchdowns. He was the 2015 Rookie of the Year, the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year, a 2017 All-Pro, and is on track to receive another OPOY award this year while being in the conversation for MVP, too. Cooper, Melvin Gordon, and Marcus Peters are among the other remarkable first-rounders. They’re on track to have long and productive NFL careers; but as a group, the 2015 class has fallen short. How 2015 compares to other recent draft classes For reference, the top of the 2016 draft class includes Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jalen Ramsey (picks 1-5). Goff is leading an 8-1 Rams team and is a major player in the MVP race. Wentz had a breakout 2017 season and his Eagles won the Super Bowl last season (though he was sidelined for the game after tearing his ACL in December 2017); now he’s back and has been thriving — even if the Eagles are not. Bosa is elite when on-the-field; currently he’s dealing with an injury and has yet to play this season. And Elliott and Ramsey are both fitting of their top five draft designations and have become household names since entering the league. Ramsey is also a top-five trash talker. Many of the first-rounders from 2017 are off to hot starts, maybe making them even more productive than the 2015 first-rounders already. There’s Myles Garrett (third-most sacks this season), Leonard Fournette (sixth most rushing yards and third most rushing touchdowns in 2017), plus Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson all of whom are having great years and proving worthy of their draft selections. Top 10 draft picks from 2014 were Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, and Mike Evans. Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald were picks 12 and 13 that year. Mack, Beckham, Evans, and Donald have all cashed in with major contract extensions already. Watkins received a sizable extension fro the Chiefs, too, rewarding him for his play. 2018 is the year in which 2014 first-round picks would be playing on the fifth-year option from their rookie deals, if their teams exercised that option. 23 of the first-rounders from 2014 had their fifth year option picked up (compared to 20 from the 2015 class), nine are on new teams, and four are free agents. The fifth year option has been a part of every first rounder’s NFL contract since the 2012 draft class for which the current Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect. It helps teams retain a player for one year longer than the standard four-year rookie draft pick contract. It also gives teams an extra year to decide if they want to invest more millions in a long-term contract extension for a player, or just pay them a costly fifth year option before they hit free agency prior to their sixth season in the league. It helps the players because in the event of an injury it’s fully guaranteed money, and otherwise, it’s guaranteed on the first day of the league year for which it is in effect. The fifth-year option ranges per position and is formulated differently (with more money) for top 10 picks. You can see the 2018 figures here. The fact that 12 players from the 2015 draft failed to have their fifth-year option picked up is a sign that their teams were pretty much ready to move on from them after their third season in the league. There’s still time for the 2015 first-round picks to blossom, but Winston‘s benching is essentially the tip of the iceberg for this group.