The Pittsburgh Steelers have an enviable track record in terms of selecting wide receivers, though not everyone agrees, namely Paul Zeise, who calls the Steelers’ recent history of drafting wide receivers “overrated.” But since current general manager Kevin Colbert arrived in 2000 the Steelers have drafted a slew of difference-making WRs, including:
Plaxico Burress – first round, 2000
Antwaan Randle El – second round, 2002
Santonio Holmes – first round, 2006
Mike Wallace – third round, 2009
Emmanuel Sanders – third round, 2010
Antonio Brown – sixth round, 2010
Martavis Bryant – fourth round, 2014
JuJu Smith-Schuster – second round, 2017
Then there’s the more recently picked wide WR’s—James Washington (second round, 2018) and Diontae Johnson (third round, 2019)—both of whom appear to be on the rise, especially Johnson, who Pro Football Focus identified as a potential ‘breakout’ candidate in 2020.
And now: Chase Claypool, drafted in the second round this year, and the first player picked in Pittsburgh’s six-man draft class.
National Media Reaction to the Chase Claypool Selection
For the most part, the national media was not enthused with the selection of Claypool. SI’s Donnie Druin called the Claypool selection a “surprise pick,” before going on to review the reaction of other national media types, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who “didn’t love the pick.” Similarly, FantasyPros’ Mike Tagliere said “Claypool isn’t someone I liked,” while Rotoworld’s Thor Nystrom didn’t even bother to address the Claypool pick specifically, grading the Steelers’ draft a D- before writing: “If you understood what Pittsburgh was doing, fill me in.”
But I like the Claypool selection. A lot. It’s not just that his measurables are comparable to those of former Detroit Lions star Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson (as you’ll see in the Chris Simms video below). And that he’s the kind of big wide receiver that Ben Roethlisberger has lacked of late. Or that he’s versatile, having demonstrated the ability to block and excel on special teams.
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly on Chase Claypool
One thing I really like is that Claypool fits the mold of many other successful Steelers wide receivers, including Hines Ward and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“He’s a guy that will say yes to any job,” noted Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly in a post-draft interview with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com. “… As a wide receiver he’s going to do the dirty jobs. He’s going to block a safety, he’s going to be physical at the point of attack. Then, when you need someone to make a play down the field, he will go up and get the football. Right away he is going to do those tough jobs and meet it with a ‘yes’ as to anything he’s asked to do. He’s not a guy that looks toward the glitz and the glamour,” Kelly continued.
That sounds like a good fit for Pittsburgh and the Steelers organization.
Chris Simms on Chase Claypool
Yet the best illustration I’ve seen as to why Claypool could be a superstar receiver comes courtesy of Chris Simms and Paul Burmeister via Chris Simms Unbuttoned—in a segment produced before the 2020 NFL Draft.
During the segment Simms calls Claypool a “freak of nature,” and “a first-round talent” before Simms and Burmeister discuss various subtleties that illustrate Claypool’s potential to be a big-time player in the NFL.
Among other things, Simms says, “[Claypool] is a phenomenal traffic/50-50-type ball receiver…. He is incredible, for a big guy, at adjusting to the ball [while it’s in the air].”
Simms is also impressed with Claypool’s physicality and his ability to play special teams, calling him “the best special teams player on their team [at Notre Dame].” No doubt Claypool can contribute on special teams as a rookie while he’s integrated into the offense.
Also of note is Simms’ prediction that Claypool would be selected within the first 45 picks in the draft. Fortunately for the Steelers he was still available at #49, a testament to the wide receiver depth in the 2020 NFL draft.
The Steelers’ 2020 Depth Chart at Wide Receiver
As for where Claypool might fit on the Steelers’ 2020 depth chart, some have surmised that Claypool will be the #4 receiver, behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington, but head coach Mike Tomlin cautioned about making that assumption.
In a recent Steelers Nation Unite Huddle, Tomlin said, “I am not going to thoughtfully place him behind anybody. He might come in and carve out a significant role for himself…. I want Chase to know there aren’t any glass ceilings in terms of what he can do and be for us, not only this year but over the course of his career.”
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