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Weighing fifth-year options for 2021 国产探花Draft's first-round selections: Who merits further commitment?

With players chosen in the 2021 国产探花Draft having finished their third regular season, it's decision time on fifth-year options for the class' first-rounders.

All drafted rookies are given four-year contracts to begin their careers -- and teams have the option to extend that pact for a fifth year with players selected in Round 1. The fifth-year-option window for the Class of 2021 opened Jan. 8, with the final deadline set for May 2. So, which players deserve to stick with their current teams through the 2025 campaign?

Today, I'm taking a look at the 32 eligible selections from Round 1 back in 2021, providing my opinion on whether or not each of the players merits the fifth-year option.

Pick
1
Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · QB

Exercise the option? Yes.


The Jaguars鈥 disappointing 2023 campaign shouldn't take away from how the franchise feels about Lawrence in the big picture. After a disastrous 2021 season for everyone in Jacksonville, the former No. 1 overall pick has gotten back on track in his two years with Doug Pederson, eclipsing 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air in each. And with an epic playoff win to his name, Lawrence established himself as the future of the franchise at the position with his leadership and on-field play.

Pick
2
Zach Wilson
New York Jets · QB

Exercise the option? No.


This shouldn鈥檛 come as a surprise. It鈥檚 been quite the roller coaster for Wilson over the last three years. After winning three games as a rookie, Wilson was demoted during his second year as the starter after failing to perform on the field and putting his foot in his mouth off it. Then, in Year 3, he again struggled to take strides after being thrust back into the starting lineup following Aaron Rodgers鈥 season-ending injury. The Jets are expected to trade him this offseason, which could end up being the best thing for a young man in need of a fresh start. 

Pick
3
Trey Lance
Dallas Cowboys · QB

Exercise the option? No.


Original drafting team: San Francisco 49ers


It鈥檚 an easy decision for the Cowboys, who are Lance's second team. After starting four games in his two seasons with San Francisco and ultimately losing the job to Brock Purdy, Lance was traded to Dallas. He didn鈥檛 play a single snap for the Cowboys in 2023, and there鈥檚 no telling when he鈥檒l get another opportunity to see the field. 

Pick
4
Kyle Pitts
Atlanta Falcons · TE

Exercise the option? Yes.


Pitts is one of the best tight end prospects I have ever scouted. His production hasn鈥檛 been anywhere near his ability, but a lot of that falls on Arthur Smith鈥檚 inability to fully utilize the playmaker after Pitts鈥 1,000-yard rookie campaign. With a new regime on the way, I expect Pitts to become a focal point of the offense, just like he was in Year 1.

Pick
5
Ja'Marr Chase
Cincinnati Bengals · WR

Exercise the option? Yes.


This is a no-brainer. Chase established himself as a bona fide star from the jump, racking up nearly 1,500 receiving yards on the way to becoming the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has continued to be elite when healthy, with 1,000-plus receiving yards in each season, as well as 29 total touchdowns. 

Pick
6
Jaylen Waddle
Miami Dolphins · WR

Exercise the option? Yes.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘Waddle, who always seems to be banged up in one way or another, has still been able to post 1,000-plus receiving yards in each of his first three seasons in Miami. The Dolphins need as many playmakers as possible in Mike McDaniel鈥檚 track-like offense. Waddle has been a stud opposite Tyreek Hill and has built quite the rapport with Tua Tagovailoa, whom Miami wants to keep around.

Pick
7
Penei Sewell
Detroit Lions · OT

Exercise the option? Yes.


Earning a Pro Bowl nod in each of the last two seasons, Sewell has established himself as a crucial pillar in the Lions鈥 offense, a unit that has made strides each year with Sewell primarily manning the right tackle spot. He is one of the premier tackles in the game today, and it鈥檚 nice to see him getting recognized for it with a first-team All-Pro selection. 

Pick
8
Jaycee Horn
Carolina Panthers · CB

Exercise the option? Yes.


Battling injuries during each of his three seasons in Carolina, Horn has played in just 22 total games. He had his best campaign in 2022, when he recorded seven passes defensed and three interceptions in 13 games. Horn spent a majority of this season injured, but was a solid contributor in the six games he did play for the Panthers鈥 third-ranked pass defense. The talent is there. He just has to stay healthy.

Pick
9
Patrick Surtain II
Denver Broncos · CB

Exercise the option? Yes.


It was surprising to see Horn selected ahead of Surtain, who has been everything the Broncos envisioned he鈥檇 be when they snatched him up. He is arguably a top-five cornerback -- one who routinely matches up against and shuts down opposing No. 1 receivers. With seven interceptions (one returned for a score) in his career, Surtain is a guy quarterbacks must be mindful of when dropping back to throw.

Pick
10
DeVonta Smith
Philadelphia Eagles · WR

Exercise the option? Yes.


Smith has been overshadowed at times by A.J. Brown, but he鈥檚 arguably a No. 1 receiver in his own right. He鈥檚 proved that in each season -- and did so again in the Eagles鈥 wild-card loss to the Bucs with eight receptions for 148 yards, the most in a single postseason game in franchise history. The 6-foot, 170-pounder is an ultra-talented and tough wideout who has racked up 3,178 career receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

Pick
11
Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · QB

Exercise the option? No.


This is going to be a interesting offseason for Fields, whom I expect the Bears to trade away before selecting a new quarterback of the future with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 国产探花Draft. Fields has shown his dominance as a runner -- rushing for 2,220 yards and 14 TDs over three seasons, including 1,143 yards in 2022 -- and improvement as a passer, but not enough to keep him in the Windy City. He鈥檒l be the guy somewhere, and it鈥檚 likely that whichever team trades for Fields will work out a new contract with him.

Pick
12
Micah Parsons
Dallas Cowboys · LB

Exercise the option? Yes.


In his three 国产探花seasons, Parsons has has made three Pro Bowls, earned first-team All-Pro honors twice and won the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He also has a good case to be this year鈥檚 Defensive Player of the Year. Dallas has a lot of difficult decisions to make this offseason, but picking up Parsons鈥 option before handing him the bag isn鈥檛 one of them.

Pick
13
Rashawn Slater
Los Angeles Chargers · OT

Exercise the option? Yes.


A year removed from a season-ending biceps injury, a healthy Slater returned as one of the league鈥檚 top offensive tackles in 2023, allowing just three sacks on 762 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He was one of the bright spots in a disappointing Chargers season.锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘

Pick
14
Alijah Vera-Tucker
New York Jets · OL

Exercise the option? Yes.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘AVT has struggled to stay healthy, playing a combined 12 games over the last two seasons. The Jets should pick up his option because he is exactly the type of solid, versatile contributor teams want up front. Now he just needs a cleaner bill of health.

Pick
15
Mac Jones
New England Patriots · QB

Exercise the option? No.


There were some who questioned this pick three years ago, and now everyone knows why. After a promising rookie campaign, Jones continued to prove he was not the guy. He was given numerous opportunities over the last two seasons but failed to solidify himself as New England's QB1, often being benched for Bailey Zappe, a 2022 fourth-round pick.

Pick
16
Zaven Collins
Arizona Cardinals · LB

Exercise the option? No.


Collins was billed as a versatile, do-it-all defender, but like Isaiah Simmons before him, he failed to regularly produce for the Cardinals. His best campaign was 2022, when he had 100 tackles, but Collins otherwise just hasn鈥檛 made enough big-time plays.

Pick
17
Alex Leatherwood
Cleveland Browns · OT

Exercise the option? No.


Original drafting team: Las Vegas Raiders


The most controversial first-round pick of the 2021 draft, Leatherwood was cut by the Raiders after his rookie season, picked up by the Chicago Bears (for whom he played four games in 2022) and spent 2023 on the Cleveland Browns鈥 practice squad. 

Pick
18
Jaelan Phillips
Miami Dolphins · OLB

Exercise the option? Yes.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘Phillips was solid in his first two campaigns, logging 15.5 sacks combined, and was enjoying his best year yet in 2023 (6.5 sacks in eight games) before tearing his Achilles in November. Prior to the injury, the disruptive playmaker proved himself to be a pillar in Vic Fangio鈥檚 defense. With a full recovery, Phillips should continue to shine in Miami.

Pick
19
Jamin Davis
Washington Commanders · LB

Exercise the option? No.


锘匡豢锘匡豢I loved Davis coming out of Kentucky and thought he鈥檇 be a huge contributor behind a once-stacked Commanders defensive line. But that never came to fruition, and he is currently recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery. Plus, with Washington bringing in a new regime this offseason, the team is most likely to let Davis play out his fourth season before re-evaluating whether it wants to keep the former first-rounder for 2025 and beyond.

Pick
20
Kadarius Toney
Kansas City Chiefs · WR

Exercise the option? No.


Original drafting team: New York Giants


Injuries limited Toney in New York, which traded him to Kansas City midway through his second season with the Giants. With the Chiefs, it鈥檚 been more of the same: inconsistent play and injuries. Toney鈥檚 11 drops in 32 career games sum up the frustrations.

Pick
21
Kwity Paye
Indianapolis Colts · DE

Exercise the option? Yes.


The Colts should pick this option up. Paye has improved each season, posting a career-high 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2023. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive end is a solid building block who should continue to get better.

Pick
22
Caleb Farley
Tennessee Titans · CB

Exercise the option? No.


Farley was a risky pick because of his injury history in college. Three years into his pro career, the cornerback has played just 12 games and missed the entire 2023 campaign due to injury. And when Farley has played, he has struggled.

Pick
23
Christian Darrisaw
Minnesota Vikings · OT

Exercise the option? Yes.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢While Darrisaw has battled injuries in his three seasons, missing a total of 10 games, he has established himself as a premier tackle. I could see Minnesota wanting to get a long-term done this offseason.

Pick
24
Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers · RB

Exercise the option? No.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘匡豢锘Yes, Harris has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons with the Steelers, but it鈥檚 due to the sheer volume of carries he鈥檚 had. Harris, who is averaging 3.9 yards per carry in his career, is a workhorse who takes a ton of hits. Pittsburgh doesn鈥檛 often invest in running backs. This won鈥檛 be the exception.

Pick
25
Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · RB

Exercise the option? Yes.


After losing his rookie season to injury, Etienne has proven to be a big-play guy for the Jaguars, eclipsing 1,400 scrimmage yards in each of the last two seasons. He is a nice piece for Doug Pederson鈥檚 offense, and his familiarity with Trevor Lawrence from their Clemson days shows on the field.

Pick
26
Greg Newsome II
Cleveland Browns · CB

Exercise the option? Yes.


Newsome has been a viable player for Jim Schwartz, and he鈥檚 shown enough talent and playmaking ability alongside Denzel Ward and Martin Emerson to merit Cleveland picking up his option.

Pick
27
Rashod Bateman
Baltimore Ravens · WR

Exercise the option? Yes.


This could go either way, to be honest, but I'll say yes. Bateman has splashed at times, but hasn鈥檛 been the consistent No. 1 receiver Baltimore envisioned when it took him in the first round. However, with Zay Flowers in the building, there鈥檚 less pressure on Bateman, who has also struggled to stay healthy, to be The Guy. I've seen some positive things from Bateman this season, but he may need to make a good impression in the postseason before the final decision is made.

Pick
28
Payton Turner
New Orleans Saints · DE

Exercise the option? No.


Three sacks in 15 games (zero starts) over three seasons? Turner has been one of the bigger disappointments of this group.

Pick
29
Eric Stokes
Green Bay Packers · CB

Exercise the option? Yes.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘Stokes has performed well when available, but after playing in 16 games as a rookie, the defensive back has logged just 12 total games over the last two seasons. Stokes possesses the mentality the Packers want, and when you combine that with his ability, Green Bay will likely keep him around.

Pick
30
Gregory Rousseau
Buffalo Bills · DE

Exercise the option? Yes.


Much like Ed Oliver before him, Rousseau has progressed in each season. He鈥檚 not necessarily dominant in this Bills front, but Rousseau has emerged as a consistent disruptor.

Pick
31
Odafe Oweh
Baltimore Ravens · OLB

Exercise the option? Yes.


锘匡豢锘匡豢锘Similar to Gregory Rousseau, Oweh has steadily come along in Baltimore, posting five sacks and a pair of forced fumbles in 13 games this season. Pass rushers produce in waves for the Ravens, and this athletic edge could be the next guy to become more of a focal point. 

Pick
32
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · OLB

Exercise the option? Yes.


The Bucs had the luxury of taking Tryon-Shoyinka here with the hope he would learn from veteran Shaq Barrett and others. He鈥檚 done that and evolved into an energetic playmaker on the second level for Todd Bowles. 

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