Will Chase Claypool Repeat His Sterling Rookie Season?

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Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh

What You Need to Know:

- Claypool broke out as a senior at Notre Dame in 2019 (66-1,037-13).

- At 6’4, 227 pounds, he’s an incredible athlete. In the pre-draft process, he recorded a 4.42 forty-time, a 40.5-inch vertical, a 126-inch broad jump and 19 bench reps. Each mark ranked in the 82nd percentile or better among Combine WRs since 1999.

- Pittsburgh selected him in Round 2 of the 2020 draft.

- Claypool earned the trust of Ben Roethlisberger and the coaching staff as a rookie. He led all Pittsburgh pass catchers with 9 targets inside the 10-yard line. He even saw 3 goal line attempts on jet motions, scoring twice.

- Claypool played 62.9% of the snaps. That ranked behind JuJu Smith-Schuster (83.9%) and Diontae Johnson (66.6%) but ahead of James Washington (44.1%).

- The rookie was volatile, though. He finished as a WR1 3 times and outside the top-50 6 times.

- His 16.7% target share (16 games) placed him behind Diontae Johnson’s mark of 22.0% (15 games) and JuJu Smith-Schuster mark of 19.6% (16 games).

- Claypool used his physicality and long strides to uncover vs. press coverage. Per Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception charting, Claypool had a 75.4% success rate vs. press (80th percentile).

- An average depth of target at nearly 14 yards showed his value as a downfield threat. He ranked 11th among WRs in air yards.

- Unfortunately for Claypool’s 2021 upside, JuJu Smith-Schuster re-signed in free agency. Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron return, as well.

- Pittsburgh’s selection of Najee Harris in Round 1 says they want to commit to a more balanced approach under 1st-year OC Matt Canada. Last year, Roethlisberger ranked 3rd in pass attempts, while the team ranked 2nd in pass rate.

- Pittsburgh trotted out 3+ WRs on 80% of its 2020 plays. Adding Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth in Round 2 might force that number to come down a bit.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line

Claypool shattered expectations as a 2020 rookie. Filling a deep role for a Pittsburgh, the Notre Dame product brought back shades of Martavis Bryant. Claypool took 14 of his 62 catches for 20+ yards. He even punched in a pair of goal line rushing TDs.

The arrival of Najee Harris might limit those chances — and Claypool’s overall target potential.

That reality — plus the return of Johnson and Smith-Schuster — make it tough to project a major year 2 leap for Claypool. Still, if Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy, the 2nd-year pro figures to stick as a WR3 with several more week-winning lines.