Explicit NFL Draft metric indicates 2020 Pandemic first round has historically been bad

Three years ago, it was pitched as a draft class that could prove that every NFL talent assessment was a waste of time, money, and energy. The Pandemic Project Class of 2020 was considered as a collection of selections that he selected What the game bar says about the player.

With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the vast majority of pro days, in-person workouts, and in-person visits with NFL Draft prospects, 2020 has become a lab test of sorts. It all pointed to a fascinating set of questions: How well can teams select players without the additional due diligence between the scouting group and the draft? What if they had to pretty much rely on one set of combined workouts, game tape, and Zoom interviews instead of additional on-site visits and training? How well will teams handle the in-house recruiting process, which has been a sea changer for the dungeon “war room” discussions that characterize recent drafts?

The answers this week? not encouraging.

The same 2020 pandemic class that relied so heavily on the game bar set the standard for first-round futility with 20 players failing to earn fifth-year options by NFL teams. This means that after three seasons of on-field performance, 62.5% of 2020 first-rounders fail to automatically extend their rookie contracts with one additional (and lucrative) fully guaranteed year of pay.

That’s a staggering drop from the previous two draft classes in 2018 and 2019, which — thanks to a change in the collective bargaining agreement — were the first two fifth-year picks to be fully guaranteed (not guaranteed simply by injury).

The class of 2018 saw only 10 players try to turn down the fifth-year option. The class of 2019 had 13 players go unselected. Even going back to offering fifth-year options (when salaries were initially guaranteed only by injury), the only class that came close to messing up 2020 was the 2016 draft, which had 15 players failing to secure a mid-year option.

The defensive leaders were no match for Chase Young’s strong first year in the league, when he won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with 7.5 sacks. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The questionable list includes Chase Young and Henry Ruges III

What does that mean for the Class of 2020?

Well, the Year 5 Choice Decision is the most accurate read on how teams self-assess their first-round picks. If the franchise is happy with the choice they made, they either choose the option or sign a player to an extension before the option takes effect. The class of 2020 clearly demonstrates that NFL teams made a series of mistakes in their selections — or, at the very least, put themselves on the fence when it came to believing a player deserved a high fifth-year salary.

Some of the notable members of the Class of 2020 who failed to secure fifth-year options:

No. 2 Overall Pick Chase Young: A remarkably talented passing forward from Ohio State who saw his career with the Washington Chiefs derailed with a knee injury.

#3 Overall Pick Jeff Okudah: A highly regarded cornerback from Ohio State who was traded off-season by the Detroit Lions to the Atlanta Falcons for a fifth round draft pick. The Falcons promptly restructured his contract and voided his fifth-year option.

No. 8 Overall Pick Isaiah Simmons: A terrible athletic linebacker from Clemson who never lived up to the high-impact exceptions of the Arizona Cardinals.

No. 11 Overall Pick Mekhi Becton: A left tackle who looked like he could be a permanent All-Pro as a junior but eventually his career fell apart due to injuries and weight problems.

No. 12 overall Henry Rogers’ third pick: An extremely talented broad who showed great promise ahead of his career due to a car accident that killed a woman and her dog. He will reportedly plead guilty to a felony count of DUI resulting in death and a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter count.

No. 19 Overall Damon Arnett Pick: One raider who was released after video showed him flashing a firearm and making death threats resurfaced on social media. He was released by the Kansas City Chiefs prior to the 2022 season after he was arrested and faced gun and drug charges.

No. 29 Pick Isaiah Wilson: A talented offensive tackle who was placed on the COVID Reserve List twice as a junior and was ultimately suspended for violating team rules. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round by the Titans after just one season, then cut just days later by Miami. He has not been in the NFL since being released from the New York Giants’ practice squad prior to the 2022 season.

No. 31 Pick Jeff Gladney: Cornerback who was released by the Minnesota Vikings after one year due to filing domestic violence charges. Ultimately, Gladney was found not guilty of the charges at trial. The Arizona Cardinals signed him after that legal victory, but he died in a car accident less than three months later.

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