From one of the deepest wide receiver pools in NFL draft history, Pittsburgh selected Chase Claypool with the No. 49 pick. That was slightly ahead of his over/under draft position, which was set at 55. Bettors who backed UNDER received a generous +155 moneyline return. From the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, via Canada, Claypool is a wide receiver with the build of a tight end. After a quick look at his past, we gauge Claypool’s fantasy football future.
Meet The Steelers’ Newest Weapon: Chase Claypool
Born in Canada, Claypool went to school at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in British Columbia. Playing football and basketball, he was a dual-sport athlete for the Abbotsford Panthers. Showing a versatile football skill set, Claypool lined up at every position on offense in high school. A four-star recruit, Claypool was the top Canadian in the 2016 NCAA draft class. He had offers from major programs like Michigan and Oregon prior to signing with Notre Dame.
Eased into the Fighting Irish lineup, Claypool caught five passes for 81 yards as a freshman. With bigger numbers yet to come, he posted 29 receptions for 402 yards and two touchdowns during his sophomore season. Continuing to improve his year-over-year numbers, Claypool hauled in 50 passes for 639 yards and four scores as a junior. Finishing his career on a high note, and gaining the Steelers’ attention, Claypool racked up 1,037 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.
With his final Notre Dame tally at 150 receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns, Claypool set out to impress scouts at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. He did just that by finishing in the top 10 in four wide receiver drills, including a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash. That was the fastest time by a wide receiver of his size (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) since Calvin Johnson ran a 4.35 back in 2007. Claypool also showed well with a 40.5-inch vertical leap, a 126-inch broad jump and 19 bench press reps.
How Does Claypool Fit with Pittsburgh?
After losing QB Ben Roethlisberger to an elbow injury two games into the season, Pittsburgh stumbled to an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs last year. Big Ben declared himself pain free and has a few new weapons heading into the 2020 season. Claypool joins a crowded receiving crew that includes wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington, plus tight end Eric Ebron, who recently signed with the Steelers as a free agent.
Led by backup quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Delvin Hodges, the Steelers finished with 186.3 passing yards per game in 2019, second-worst in the NFL. Those numbers will improve if Roethlisberger stays healthy. With wide receiver speed, plus tight end size, Claypool can certainly step in and help. He played all over the field for Notre Dame and that versatility will continue in Pittsburgh. Whether he lines up outside or in the slot, Claypool will provide a big target for Big Ben.
How Does Claypool Project in Fantasy Football?
With Vance McDonald joining Ebron in two TE sets, Pittsburgh is well stocked at tight end. As such, Claypool will primarily play as a wide receiver. How many reps he receives during his rookie season is the biggest question facing fantasy owners. Smith-Schuster played 14 games during his first season and hauled in 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant saw more looks, but JuJu posted WR1 fantasy stats.
It will be interesting to see how Claypool matches up with Johnson (5-foot-10) and Washington (5-foot-11) during training camp. Claypool is a better blocker and, if he matches their route running skills, he may end up in a starting role. With the Fighting Irish he caught slant passes on short routes or beat defenders with his leaping ability and huge hands while stretching the field. Claypool should remind Roethlisberger of former red zone target Heath Miller.
Bottom Line: Pittsburgh must see a bright future for Claypool. The last time the Steelers used their first pick on a receiver was in 2006 when they selected Santonio Holmes at No. 25 overall. Claypool is a quality draft and stash prospect and will be a popular pickup during Dynasty League rookie drafts. He ranks No. 64 on the ADP list at FullTime Fantasy Sports and No. 173 overall on offense. Claypool projects as a 14th-round pick in season-long drafts.
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