Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool checks in at No. 11 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.
This is the story of the “Maple Bandit.”
Claypool is from Abbotsford, British Columbia. He played baseball and hockey until trying tackle football at age 8. He can thank Facebook for charting his path to the NFL.
“I wasn’t really aiming to get a [Division I] offer just because it almost was impossible and kind of out of reach already, being a junior and having no offers,” Claypool told the Notre Dame Observer. “So I just kind of threw up my film on Facebook — just something that I did for fun — and then [my AAU seven-on-seven football coach] saw it and sent it to some people. … So it kind of happened by fluke.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was impressed by the film and flew to the western Canadian province to watch Claypool play basketball. The long trip was worthwhile. Claypool caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards (15.7 average) and 13 touchdowns during a monster senior season. His four-year totals were 150 receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 scores.
“I think just physical pass-catching,” Claypool said at the Scouting Combine of his big senior season. “I had not as many contested catches in my junior year, then a lot more in my senior year. So, just showing that I’m an improved pass catcher. I think route-running improved, definitely. But I think I improved on the fine details of the game, (such as) getting in and out of breaks faster. I don’t think it’s something that I’m bad at, but it’s something I can get better at.”
At 6-foot-4 1/4 and 238 pounds, there was some talk of Claypool moving to tight end. He scuttled those thoughts with a startling Scouting Combine in which he ran a 4.42 in the 40 and posted a 40.5-inch vertical leap. It was a valuable 40-yard dash – and not just because of the potential money he made by moving up draft boards.
“I’ve made dinner bets on it,” he said of beating 4.50 seconds. “So, I think I’ll be getting some free dinners these next couple of weeks here.”
What we like
Claypool simply overpowered defensive backs in college. He made 15 contested catches and had a contested-catch rate of 57.7 percent that ranked sixth among our top 32 receiver prospects. He tied for fourth in the nation with 16 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. And he broke 14 tackles, giving him a rate of one missed tackle for every 4.7 receptions – seventh-best in our top 32. Plus, he blocks. “I think I’ve proved I can be versatile in terms of inside, outside, No. 3 receiver, tight end. So I think I can be one of those rare guys who can line up at all positions on the field and do well, especially because I did that in my college career.”
What we don’t like
Claypool never looked like a player with 4.42 speed in the 40. Like many big receivers, it takes a while to get up to full speed. While his hands measured a robust 9 7/8 inches, he had a drop rate of 9.6 percent that ranked 29th of our top 32.