The 2016 NFL Draft Class Made History

by Steve Frederick

Even with the 2019 NFL Draft and the majority of free agency in the rearview, NFL teams still have important decisions to make this offseason. Friday, May 3rd was the deadline for teams to pick up the 5th-year option for the 2016 Draft Class.

The 5th-year option on rookie contracts was a result of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and only applies to players selected in the 1st round. After a player's third season, the team has between the end of the regular season and May 3rd of the new league year to pick up this option. The price of the option year is predetermined using a formula and is only guaranteed for injury. This means a team can pick up a player's option and if he doesn't perform to the team's expectations in Year 4 they can avoid being on the hook for the pricey 5th-year if he is cut before the start of the new league year, which typically falls in mid-March. This happened to Texans CB Kevin Johnson this year and Lions TE Eric Ebron in 2018.

As mentioned previously, the player's option-year salary is predetermined and it's based on the position they play and where they were drafted in the 1st round. Players selected in the Top 10 receive a salary equal to the average of the Top 10 highest prior years salaries for that player's position. Players selected between picks 11-32 receive a salary equal to the average of the Top 3-25 highest prior year's salaries for that player's position.

Below is the 2019 option year salaries for all positions:





Defensive End



Defensive Tackle






Offensive Line









Running Back






Tight End



Wide Receiver



Disappointing 2016 Draft Class

Although the 5th-year option hasn't been around long, the 2016 Draft Class made history as it now has the highest percentage of declines since this feature was implemented and it is tied with the 2013 Draft Class for most declines with 14. The reason why the percentages differ is due to there only being 31 1st round picks in 2016 due to Deflategate.

5th-Year Option Declines By The Year
Draft Class# Of DeclinesDecline %
Average # of Declines11.33
*Only 31 1st Round Picks In 2016 (Deflategate)

The average number of declines per year through 6 classes in 11.33. In other words, roughly 35% of the time a team is making a stance that they are looking to move on from their 1st round pick by the end of Year 3 of their rookie deal. 

Last week, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport made an interesting comment on the Bill's declining EDGE Shaq Lawson's option and insinuated that having the 5th-year option declined has paid off for a number of players.

After combing through it all, Rapoport's comments are a bit misleading. Out of the 54 players who had their 5th-year option declined in the first five years of this being in effect, only 5 saw handsome paydays the following offseason. In other words, there has been a 9.2% chance of these players proving their teams wrong. This also includes players like Fuller and Watkins whose issues weren't necessarily on-field performance. It was the ability to stay healthy.

Option AmtNew Contract Details
Sammy Watkins2014$13.26MTraded to LAR, Signed W/ KC - 3-year, $48M (30M G)
Kyle Fuller2014$8.56MTransition Tagged, Re-signed W/ CHI - 4-year, $56M ($19M G)
Mark Barron2012$8.26MRe-signed W/ LAR - 5-year, $45M ($20M G)
Bruce Irvin2012$7.75MSigned in FA W/ OAK - 4-year, $37M ($12.5M G)
Nick Perry2012$7.75MRe-signed W/ GB - 5-year, $60M ($18.5M G)

If there was one player from the 2016 class that would fit this mold it would have to be Titans OT Jack Conklin. The Titans declined the $12.8M option because Conklin hasn't been healthy the past few seasons but we know that offensive lineman who hit free agency can make a pretty penny.

Another take away from the research is that you pretty much know how a players career is going to turn out by the end of Year 3. A player typically fits into one of three buckets - Key Contributor, Role Player or Bust and 90% of players who fail to get their option picked up fall into the last two buckets.

Role Player: Adrian Clayborn, Morris Claiborne, Cordarrelle Patterson, etc

Bust: Justin Gilbert, Justin Blackmon, Ereck Flowers, Dee Milliner, AJ Jenkins, Matt Elam, etc