That’s right, with 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine receiving touchdowns, along with two more rushing touchdowns on those very popular early-season Matt Canada motion sweeps, Claypool, the 11th receiver taken in the draft, showed the world that he was not only under-drafted but that he also had superstar potential written all over him.
Too bad Claypool’s great first season didn’t lead to him being voted NFL Rookie of the Year. That’s okay, though, because the Chargers’ Justin Herbert was more than deserving of the award. But what about the All-Pro honors? How about Pro Bowl honors (even if there wasn’t an actual game this year)? Unfortunately for Claypool, he didn’t do enough to earn either honor. He did get voted to the 2020 All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers Association (not sure if there’s a trophy handed out for that) and was named the Steelers Rookie of the Year (the actual name of the honor is the Joe Greene Great Performance Award—and I do believe the mean one hands out a trophy at halftime of a home preseason game).
Still, the elusive love that Claypool spent his entire initial campaign chasing wasn’t so hard to track down for Louis Lipps during his magical rookie season of 1984. Not only did Lipps, the Steelers first-round pick out of Southern Mississippi in that spring’s NFL draft, earn himself a long-lasting nickname during his first professional season (“Louuuu!!!!!!!”), but he was also named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was voted an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler and, oh yes, Mr. Greene handed him an award the following preseason. What did Lipps do to garner so much universal love? He caught 45 passes for 860 yards and nine touchdowns while adding another score on the ground. It’s worth pointing out that Lipps also tallied 656 punt-return yards and a score, which may have had more to do with his All-Pro honors than anything.
Having said all that, it’s amazing how much more a rookie receiver has to produce in this era than he did in Lipps’ day. Claypool may not have received much hardware during his rookie season, but he did have to listen to people—including his head coach—speculate on whether or not he was running out of steam by the end of the year.
Not only did the US dollar get a lot weaker between 1984 and 2020, but receiver stats did, as well.
Oh well, I believe Claypool has only just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of as a receiver in the NFL, and if he continues to hone his physical attributes—attributes that are quite extraordinary—the All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors will soon come his way in abundance.
Oh yeah, and Claypool will likely receive a fat second contract, something that eluded Lipps thanks to the NFL’s financial structure during the 1980s.
Chase Claypool can buy all the awards he wants with what receivers make today.