Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool turned in a record-breaking performance last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the first Steelers player to score four touchdowns in a game in more than five decades (Roy Jefferson, Nov/1968, vs. Atlanta). Claypool’s performance was so impactful that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin pumped the brakes on the Claypool hype train during his post-game press conference, not wanting expectations to get too high for the 22-year-old wideout.
But in light of Claypool’s early success—13 catches for 261 yards and four receiving touchdowns, plus another TD on the ground—it’s perhaps worth looking at how his performances are viewed by the dispassionate observers at Pro Football Focus.
Chase Claypool’s Place Among the Top Rookie Wide Receivers
In PFF’s new ranking of the Top 15 Rookie Wide Receivers, Claypool is third, behind CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys and Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings (but ahead of Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos and Henry Ruggs III of the Las Vegas Raiders).
As PFF’s Sosa Kremenjas put it, Claypool has “demolished all expectations.” He not only has 13 catches on 19 targets but is second among all rookies with three contested catches and is “absolutely dominating with his 3.53 yards per route run figure, ranking second among all receivers in the NFL with 10-plus targets.”
Better yet, his overall PFF grade is seventh among all receivers in the NFL.
By way of comparison, Lamb has a much lower PFF grade than Claypool (65.2 as compared to 82.7) but gets extra credit for his overall production and his 433 receiving yards, which is fifth in the NFL.
As for Jefferson, he’s ranked higher than Claypool in overall grade with a 90.6 and has 19 receptions on 25 targets for 371 yards, with 122 of those yards coming after the catch.
For what it’s worth, both Lamb and Jefferson were both drafted ahead of Claypool—17th overall and 22nd overall, respectively—as compared to 49th overall for Claypool (Notre Dame).
Of course, many of the receivers ranked below him in rookie performance were drafted higher, including the aforementioned Jeudy (15th overall) and Ruggs (12th overall), not to mention Jalen Reagor of the Philadelphia Eagles (21st overall), Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars (42nd overall) and K.J. Hamler of the Denver Broncos (46th overall).
Claypool is also currently PFF’s third-highest graded rookie regardless of position, behind Jefferson and No. 1 ranked Michael Onwenu, who has played at both tackle and guard for the New England Patriots.
Kevin Dotson Excelling at Pass Blocking
As for Pittsburgh’s second-most impactful rookie, that would be offensive guard Kevin Dotson (fourth round, Louisiana), who has also distinguished himself in the eyes of PFF observers.
Dotson is the highest-rated guard in the NFL in terms of pass blocking and among the top five pass blocking offensive linemen regardless of position, having allowed 0 sacks in 72 pass blocking snaps to date. By comparison, he has struggled with run blocking, earning a 54.9 grade in the run game, which drags his overall grade down to 66.2.
Dotson is expected to make his second NFL start on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, as starting right guard David DeCastro has already been ruled “out” with the abdominal injury he suffered against the Eagles.
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