In recent days, a number of first-round picks from the 2016 NFL Draft saw their fifth-year options get picked up by their respective teams -- teams eager to exercise another year of control over players who will likely need pricey long-term extensions in the near future. To the surprise of some, the No. 8 pick in that draft and a former All-Pro right tackle, Jack Conklin, did not get his fifth-year option picked up by the Titans.
That's according to Pro Football Talk, which first reported the news on Friday, the deadline for teams to use the fifth-year option on players drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft.
Titans will not pick up Jack Conklin's 2020 option, per source— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 1, 2019
It's a little bit surprising given how promising the beginning of Conklin's career was. As a rookie in 2016, he started all 16 games and earned First-Team All-Pro honors.
But in 2017, even though he completed another 16-game season, he took a step back in his level of play. In 2016, he graded out as Pro Football Focus' fourth-best player at his position. In 2017, he graded out as PFF's 14th-best player at his position. To make matters worse, Conklin's season ended with a torn ACL in a playoff game, which forced him to miss the beginning of the 2018 season. Due to his delayed return, a concussion, and an additional knee injury he picked up later in the year, Conklin was limited to only nine games, during which he graded out as PFF's 18th-ranked player at his position.
Here's another way to look at his declining production:
Good illustration of what kind of season it was for #Titans' Conklin. Another illustration: He gave up 4 sacks in 9 games last year, per @PFF, compared to 4 sacks in his first 32 games. Tough to sink the big $$ into that situation. https://t.co/3v9EZn7Qxr— John Glennon (@glennonsports) May 1, 2019
Given the injury concerns and the downward trajectory of his career, the Titans weren't necessarily wrong to pass on his $12,866,000 fifth-year option, which would've been guaranteed for injury. Although he's now scheduled to hit free agency next offseason, that doesn't mean Conklin can't still return to the Titans. If he returns to form, the Titans could sign him to a new, but expensive contract. If he doesn't return to form, but the Titans still decide they want him around, they could sign him to a cheaper, prove-it type of deal. Or Conklin could depart Tennessee after four seasons. If he plays well during the upcoming season, he'll have plenty of suitors.
Their decision might've made sense, but that doesn't make it an easy one to swallow. It's yet another example of the Titans' underwhelming track record at the top of the first round. And remember, the Titans didn't just use the eighth-overall pick on Conklin. They also traded up to get him.
The Titans drafted 4 players in the top-10 since the fifth-year options could have been exercised. Of the four, they exercised the 5th year option on only one— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 1, 2019
❌ Jake Locker
❌ Chance Warmack
✅ Marcus Mariota
❌ Jack Conklin
Terrible results for so much draft capital invested https://t.co/hWehwi1xCD
Even though Mariota had his fifth-year option picked up, he could also be on his way out if he suffers another inconsistent season. And the Titans could be drafting another quarterback in the top-10 if things don't go well in 2019.
Next offseason, the Titans will have a decision to make about receiver Corey Davis, the fifth-overall pick in 2017. Davis' development in Year 2 -- 65 catches, 891 yards, and four touchdowns -- bodes well for his future in Tennessee.