PITTSBURGH -- At one point this offseason, Chase Claypool was being questioned as a wide receiver. Instead of coming to the NFL and helping a team on the outside, some began talking about the possibility of the 6'4, 230-pound receiver moving to tight end.
Why? Because before the NFL Combine, people believed he was "too slow" to contribute as a receiver at the next level.
But those questions faded in 4.4 seconds. After clocking a 4.42 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis during the NFL Draft's biggest tryout, the concern of Claypool's speed vanished.
Today, that once thought fault is now his biggest attribute.
"I think that's something that a lot of teams talked about with me is just that combination or size and speed," Claypool said. "It allows offenses to do a lot of different things and a lot of coaches are excited about that. I'm excited to bring those two to the table and offer what I have."
Silencing the doubters seemed to be bigger than the questions he faced prior to the combine. The move to tight end appeared to be a real possibility, but those thoughts weren't backed by play. Claypool is a true-blooded receiver.
"I’m sure it was real from the standpoint of some teams reached out to him and his camp about his willingness to play it," Irish Breakdown Senior Writer Bryan Driskell said. "Chase is huge, and he’s a long strider so I think his speed at times can get masked. So it would make sense why some teams would at least ask him about it, but the reality is he isn’t a tight end, he’s a wide receiver."
This doesn't mean he can't contribute to teams the way a tight end would in some situations.
"His athleticism and game are all wide receiver, but part of that for a smart coordinator will be using him in some pass game situations where you might otherwise use a tight end," Driskell said. "He played in the slot as a sophomore and he can work the middle of the field, run the seams, work the intermediate zones and matchup against linebackers."
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert didn't appear to be one of the people wondering about the change of position.
Talking about the pick of Claypool, Colbert couldn't say the word "speed" enough times. Even as people stayed reluctant to believe his 4.42 40-yard dash time, Colbert was just excited to see him clock so low.
"We know he ran (a 4.42 40-yard)," Colbert said. "At that size, I could say I was a little surprised that he did run that fast, but we certainly didn't think he was a 4.6 or anything of that nature. He ran an exceptional time and he plays fast for his size. He's probably usually right around 230 (pounds); 228, 230. Until we actually time him you never know. Sometimes the bigger guys with the long strides, they're deceptive. I've seen it throughout my career, and again, this didn't disappoint us. But when it was verified we thought this could be pretty special.
"He did what he did. You can't fake a time."
So where does this speed fit him? If he's not transitioning to a tight end but is big enough to play nearly anywhere across the field, where should the Steelers play him?
"He started as a slot in 2017, was the field outside receiver in 2018 and was the boundary receiver in 2019," Driskell said. "Part of what makes him so effective is his ability to play all over the field and create matchup problems for the defense in a number of areas.
"But part of the reason I was so adamant about him not being a tight end is because his greatest potential is as an outside receiver. His leaping ability, wingspan and strong hands make him an impactful contested catch weapon, and he can stretch the field. If Claypool had a better quarterback his numbers in 2019 would have been significantly better."
Now, he has a quarterback - a future Hall of Fame one - and with him, Driskell believes the Steelers are the perfect fit for the "raw" talent of Claypool.
"What I love about (the pick) is he’s going to play with a quarterback who knows how to use his size and ball skills as a weapon," Driskell said. "The Notre Dame quarterback would only throw to Claypool when he was wide open or when he was the primary read. Claypool is more than willing and able to out-muscle and out-jump defenders for the ball, and Roethlisberger will take advantage of that."
So here he is; about to play wide receiver in the NFL as a second-round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The GM is thrilled of what he's done, he knows the tools he contains as a wideout, and the experts say he's right where he belongs.
Overcoming the odds has never been a problem for the 2020 49th overall pick. It's gotten him through the speculations and into the league.
Will he do it again? Well, we'll have to wait and see.
"You can say I'm a late bloomer in the sense that I've never really had my time to shine until my junior, senior year," Claypool said. "I also thought I had the skill set, I just had to prove it year after year."