Breaking Down 4 Players From the 2012 NFL Draft Yet to Receive a Fifth-Year Option

As fifth-year options are starting to get picked up, which five players might teams be on the fence about extending?

Melvin Ingram is slated to be San Diego Charger through the 2016 season.

For many, that’s an insignificant statement. For others, such an announcement for a linebacker who has played in 29 career games (11 of them starts) and tallied six career sacks might even seem strange. Ingram’s 2016 status is significant, regardless of how he’s played thus far in his career. Ingram and the Chargers became the first pairing of the 2012 draft class to exercise the fifth-year option officially.

The fifth-year option, which gives the drafting team the option of a fifth-year of the rookie contract, guaranteed only for injury until the player is on the opening day roster of that season, was added during the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.

While the option gives the drafting franchise an extra year of team control, it also gives the player a significant pay raise. For top-10 picks, the fifth-year option is equivalent to the top 10 salaries at the position from the previous season. For other first-round picks, the pay is that of the average from the third to 25th highest salaries at the position.

Some fifth-year options are no brainers for teams.

Andrew Luck is going to remain a Colt, and Luke Kuechly will continue to be a Panther. Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden are already on their second contracts -- and not in the good way second contracts are usually mentioned -- and no longer play for the Browns.

Which fringe players deserve to be extended by their team?

To find out, we’ll be using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP measures how well a team or player performs above or below expectation, based on historical data. You can read more about it in our glossary.

Let’s look at what the numbers say about some fringe candidates.

Robert Griffin III

Jay Gruden doesn’t even know what he’s doing at quarterback, making it hard to predict what type of decision he’ll make to impact a year from now. Robert Griffin III was stellar during his rookie season, placed in a system set by Mike and Kyle Shanahan to build on Griffin’s strengths and athleticism.

That season, he finished ninth among quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back with 0.17. When combining his rushing production, Griffin was even better, of course. His Total NEP of 132.92 ranked sixth among all quarterbacks.

Griffin, though, has not been the same since getting hurt during the Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks.

In 2013, Griffin’s per drop back efficiency dropped significantly. His 0.04 Passing NEP per drop back ranked 22nd among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs. The 0.04 was exactly the average among the 45 qualified quarterbacks.

Last season, under Gruden, Griffin negatively impacted Washington on a per drop back basis. That’s less than ideal when searching for a franchise quarterback. Griffin’s -0.15 Passing NEP per drop back ranked 41st and was better than only Blake Bortles (-0.18) and Michael Vick (-0.23) among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs last season.

In his three years, Griffin has a top-10 season, a league average season, and a “he shouldn’t be out there” season.

Those are trending the wrong way, but now two years removed from the ACL surgery, Griffin could see some athleticism return and hesitation fade away. The fifth-year option should be in play, hoping that 2015 could be a bounce back. If Griffin repeats his 2014, he can be cut with no penalties as long as he’s healthy. There’s still potential there, and right now it might be the best potential Washington has at quarterback.

Matt Kalil

Kalil was the number four overall pick in the 2012 draft after Luck, Griffin, and Richardson. His rookie season started well at left tackle, but his play has deteriorated over the past two seasons. We don’t have numbers to grade offensive line play explicitly, but you can pull up any Vikings game from 2014 and see Kalil routinely getting beat in pass protection.

Minnesota invested a first round pick in Teddy Bridgewater last season, and that worked out pretty well.

Bridgewater led all rookies in Passing NEP per drop back and finished 22nd overall at 0.05. That was slightly below the league average last year of 0.07, but he spend a fair amount of his time under pressure. Bridgewater finished 2014 with the seventh most sacks taken while playing in 13 games.

As the year progressed, Bridgewater became more comfortable throwing on the move. That’s a great sign for Bridgewater’s development, but the preferable way to adapt to throwing on the move is to make the quarterback do it less often.

A $10 million price tag for Kalil in 2016 would be a lot to pay for a player who won’t consistently allow a young franchise quarterback to stay in the pocket.

Morris Claiborne

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t gotten the value they expected after trading up to the sixth overall pick to select Morris Claiborne. Claiborne only played on 14.5 percent of Dallas’ defensive snaps in 2014 due to suffering a knee injury that required surgery. After getting his torn patellar tendon repaired five months ago, Claiborne is still a question mark to be ready for the start of training camp.

While Claiborne was playing, he was the third corner in 2013 and played on 44.4 percent of Dallas’ defensive snaps. That unit ranked 24th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP that season.

Seeing limited time on the field while the starters are part of one of the worst secondaries in the league isn’t a great sign of potential. None of this, however, has stopped Jerry Jones from stating Claiborne deserves to have his fifth-year option picked up because Jerry Jones does whatever Jerry Jones wants.

That could run the Cowboys over $10 million in 2016, which is a high price for a team destined to be in cap hell for the rest of eternity.

Justin Blackmon

Our own Jordan Hoover took a look at what Justin Blackmon’s return could mean for the Jaguars in 2015. There was some promise during Blackmon’s rookie season in 2012. He finished 22nd overall in Reception NEP and 23rd in Reception NEP per target among receivers with at least 100 targets.

Since that time, Blackmon has appeared in four NFL games.

Blackmon has the most uncertainty surrounding any 2012 draftee heading into the 2015 season, as he is likely a clear boom or bust player going forward. The boom could very well exceed the value of the option, while the bust could allow Jacksonville to release him after this season.

The Jaguars have plenty of money to spend, and putting money down on Blackmon’s potential could help more than it hurts.