While the 2020 Draft may seem like it was yesterday, NFL teams are required to make decisions at the end of the 2022 season on whether to exercise (or not) the fifth-year option on the contract of their first-round picks. Here are some players who are not certainties to have their fifth-year option exercised, and must perform well in 2022:
Jeffrey Okudah – Detroit Lions
Okudah has battled with injury since being drafted 3rd Overall by the Detroit Lions, and CB is widely regarded as one of the toughest positions to transition from College Football into the NFL, due to the polished route-running of the WRs and new schemes they are employed in. Okudah showed promising signs early on, but struggled with technical aspects of his game like losing track of his position on the field, and giving too much of a cushion to WRs or being overly physical at times and committing penalties when he had practically won the rep. He has only played 10 games over the 2 seasons since being drafted, and the Lions will want to see in 2022 that: A) Okudah can stay healthy for a whole season, and B) that he has learnt and improved from his rookie year and studied hard during his sophomore season to perform to a high level this season.
Mekhi Becton – New York Jets
Becton had a promising rookie season in 2020, playing in 14 games and starting 13 of those. PFF ranked him as the 3rd best Rookie OT in 2020, only behind Jedrick Wills Jr. and Michael Onwenu. He struggled with injury in his second season though, and only played 1 game before suffering a knee injury which was stated to be a 4-8 week return but kept him sidelined for the remainder of the 2021 season. Becton is another player that, when fit, is a valuable player and improves the Jets OL a huge amount, but they will hope to see a full season from him, and at the level (or higher) to which he played in his rookie season before exercising his fifth-year option.
Javon Kinlaw – San Francisco 49ers
Kinlaw was the pick to bolster the interior Defensive Line after the 2020 Super Bowl defeat and continue to create havoc on the interior for offensive lines. Kinlaw did a respectable job in his first season. With his tremendous length, he had the 4th highest pressure percentage of IDL rookies (300 snaps minimum) and played in 14 games. However, similarly to other players, he suffered a severe knee injury, which resulted in season-ending surgery in October, only playing in 4 games in 2021. He has shown that he can cause problems for opposition OL, but the big question to be answered is: will he still have the same juice as when he was drafted and in his rookie season?
K’Lavon Chaisson – Jacksonville Jaguars
Chaisson was an interesting draft pick in 2020, the speed rusher from LSU was taken with the 20th pick but has fared the same as other “undersized” speed rushers in the NFL and has struggled to convert pressures to sacks. In his 2020 rookie season, he had the fifth-highest pressure percentage of rookies, yet only converted it to one sack. He played in all 16 games but only started 3, however in 2021 Chaisson started 8 out of 15 games that he played in but finished sixth in pressure percentage out of those players drafted in the 2020 Class. The Jaguars used Chaisson in their 3-4 defense as one of the OLBs and therefore he drops into coverage more than some other players, but with Travon Walker drafted and Josh Allen at the other spot, Chaisson may find himself struggling for reps. It will be interesting to see how the Jaguars use him this season, as to whether they give him a starting role or keep him as a rotating backup.
Noah Igbinoghene – Miami Dolphins
Igbinoghene has sat behind Byron Jones and Xavien Howard and suffered injuries since being drafted in 2020 and has started only 3 games during his 2 seasons in the NFL. It is currently unlikely that the fifth-year option would be exercised on his contract unless he has a superb training camp and preseason or replaces one of the aforementioned CBs due to injury during the season for example. The pick was questioned by some media outlets at the time, due to the fact they had 2 starting calibre CBs for the 2020 season onwards, and that concern has proved to come true and Igbinoghene has found himself as a spare part in his first 2 seasons in the NFL.