The Pittsburgh Steelers selected former Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool with their initial selection of the 2020 NFL Draft. Claypool was projected by most prognosticators as a mid second to third round pick, which is basically where he was selected by the Steelers in the second round with the 49th overall selection. Claypool is a polarizing figure for many pundits. A freak athlete who's production hasn't always matched his immense talents.
Claypool has first round athleticism, but fell on most boards because those attributes didn't consistently transfer to the field of play. Claypool is a tad over 6'4" and a steak dinner under 240 lbs. Many wide receivers with his dimensions are encouraged to consider a position change to tight end, usually because they lack prototypical speed for a wide receiver. That definitely isn't a concern for Claypool. He confirmed that assessment when he ran a blazing 4.42 forty at the Combine, an unheard of number for a receiver of his size, reserved for the rarefied air of Calvin Johnson.
Claypool's explosion was evident with measurables of a 40.5" vertical and 126" broad jump, especially for a 240 lb. individual. He utilizes his large frame to it's fullest, particularly when blocking for the running game, and when establishing position to high point the ball on contested catches. This is a natural ability that can not be coached up, and Claypool has it in spades. Claypool represents the exact type of big receiver that Big Ben has been praying for every night before his head hits the pillow. Ben has to be ecstatic with the selection.
With a glowing evaluation like that, how in the world did he last to the 49th selection? As I mentioned earlier, Chase doesn't always appear to have the superior athleticism that his tested measurables would suggest. Understandable for a player of his size, he isn't a quick twitch athlete blessed with the short area quickness and burst necessary to gain immediate separation off the line of scrimmage. He needs a couple strides to reach top speed. He has solid hands for the most part, but oftentimes let's the ball get into his body when he's late getting his hands up. He doesn't appear to play up to his forty time. He appeared to be playing at half speed at times, creating concern about his motor, until I realized how he plays the position. He prefers to gain position on smaller cornerbacks and go up and over to win jump balls. This is an admirable trait, especially in the red zone, but he will need to focus on running through the deep ball with a QB like Ben Roethlisberger. There are no character concerns that have been reported that I am aware of.
There are specific criteria necessary when attempting to accurately and fairly grade any draft pick. Only time will reveal their final grades, but I will utilize certain parameters as I attempt to apply an initial grade for each Steelers draft pick. I base each grade on projected roster fit, potential immediate impact, and assumed draft value. Draft value is achieved by evaluating each players actual selection against their projected draft position, whether that be player rankings or projected round.
So how do we grade this selection? I believe that Claypool can be an immediate contributor as a rookie, both on special teams and in specific offensive sets. His size and speed can be utilized to create mismatches on go routes and in the red zone. His skill set brings attributes that the Steelers didn't previously enjoy in their wide receivers group. Many believe his long term future may be as a move tight end, where they believe he has star potential. However, I believe the Steelers selected Claypool with a specific plan in mind.
With all that plethora of information in mind, I am compelled to give this selection an initial draft grade of B. I would love to give it a higher grade based on his high ceiling, but players with Claypool's size and athleticism are few and far between. Calvin Johnson immediately comes to mind, but he was a transitional player. The Steelers don't need Chase to be that once in a lifetime player, they would be thrilled with a bigger, stronger Martavis Bryant type who can actually high point the football.
What overall grade would you give this selection? Please vote in the attached poll and share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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What grade do you give the selection of Chase Claypool?
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