A Canadian, eh?
The Steelers went into the 2020 NFL Draft in-search of many things, but the one thing that seemed to be at the top of their list was a skill-position play-maker on offense.
Would they go running back? How about tight end? What about a wide receiver? While they had to wait until Day 2 and the second round to make their first choice, the selections from the first and third categories seemed plentiful as their turn on the clock (49th, overall) approached.
Turns out, they got a receiver who runs like a receiver (always a good attribute to find in a receiver), looks kind of like a tight end and doesn’t mind blocking for running backs.
I’m talking about Chase Claypool, the 6’4”, 230-plus pound wide receiver from Notre Dame via Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.
The first good thing you can say about Claypool, other than his impressive speed that belies his incredible size (4.42 at the Combine), is that the Steelers didn't reach, not when most projected Claypool to go in the second or third round—and some even mocked him late in the first.
Another quality that stands out about Claypool—and one that’s not a surprise if you’ve been paying attention to the Steelers recent draft classes—is his great character.
Claypool has also been known to throw a pancake block or two in the run-game, something that should endear him to Steelers fans.
But size, speed, character and run-blocking are nice (as are all the “ehs” I’ve already seen in the moments since Claypool was drafted), but none of them will matter if Claypool doesn’t ultimately produce at the next level.
And that brings me to my favorite thing about Claypool: His improvement and increased productivity each season at the previous level. Claypool caught just five passes for 81 yards in his freshman year at South Bend. In his sophomore season, he pulled in 29 catches for 402 yards and two touchdowns. In his junior year, Claypool caught 50 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. And by his senior season, he was the proverbial beast, tallying 66 catches for 1,037 yards and a whopping 13 touchdowns.
That’s the way to do it. Improve each and every season. Demonstrate an ability to learn and grow.
In many ways, Claypool sounds an awful lot like many recent Steelers draft choices. Big-time character. Big-time college. Big-time production.
Above all that, his arrow is still pointing up—to quote his new boss and head coach, Mike Tomlin.
If he continues to improve as a receiver at the professional level, the Steelers and their fans will have many more reasons to love Chase Claypool.