Despite sustaining a low ankle sprain in practice last week, the buzz around Chase Claypool in the Steelers camp is continuing to grow. And when you look back at his week 5 performance, where he walked away with a total of 4 touchdowns and 116 yards, you can see why. Whilst many receivers have tried and failed to take the next step following a promising rookie year, there’s plenty of reasons to be hopeful that Claypool can make the jump.
Chase Claypool has all the attributes required to cement himself as an elite receiver for years to come. You need only to look to last season and the emergence of fellow 2nd round draft pick DK Metcalf as evidence of how a big bodied, rangy receiver can dominate a defence following their rookie season.
In fact, when you dig deeper and compare the two receivers, there is an awful lot of similarities that point to Claypool making a similar impact in his second year. DK Metcalf came into the league as a 6’4, 228 pound, elite athlete, picked in the second round of the 2019 Draft. But with question marks over whether he could transfer those elite attributes into the NFL and be successful. A year later, Claypool was selected in the second round of the 2020 Draft and measured at 6’4 and 238 pounds. Similar question marks were raised about whether he could make it as an NFL receiver, or whether he would be better off making the change to the tight end position.
Both players’ rookie seasons followed a remarkably similar path, filled with flashes of brilliance and highlight plays that terrified defenders. But ultimately like most rookie seasons they were dampened with inconsistency. Metcalf converted 100 targets into 58 catches, for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns, whilst Claypool managed 109 targets for 62 catches, 873 yards and 9 touchdown grabs. Metcalf was able to successfully step up in year two, totaling 83 receptions for 1303 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Now recognised as one of the best receivers in the league, Metcalf routinely dominates opposing defenders with his size and speed. Something that Claypool will be looking to match this year.
One area Claypool will be looking to improve is getting on the field more. Sharing the offence with Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster as a rookie was always going to result in limited playing time, with a snap count of less than 70% in 11 of 16 games. Claypool excelled in the X position, when given the opportunity, but had to share the role with Johnson. Claypool has the more typical size and explosiveness to make the X position his own, and with a full off-season under his belt, he will be desperate to stay on the field.
What to expect for this season
Chase Claypool showed all the tools needed to take his game to the next level. With his rookie season under his belt, Pittsburgh and Fantasy owners alike will be hoping to see him making a Metcalf like impact for his team. If he can start the season strongly it will quickly become impossible to keep him off the field, and a similar second season to DK’s beckons.
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