The Pittsburgh Steelers surprised us when they took Chase Claypool at pick 49 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here is why he is a reach.
The Steelers took Chase Claypool with their first selection and the 49th pick in the draft. Quickly, Steeler fans began to compare him to Martavis Bryant. But is that a fair comparison? Martavis Bryant was a better receiver at Clemson. Chase Claypool struggles with getting off the line of scrimmage on tape as well as route running. Those are two key indicators of what makes a good receiver in the NFL. Therefore, Claypool is a very raw pick for the Steelers at 49.
Defenders of this pick are comparing Claypool to Martavis Bryant. Yes, they both are 6’4 and have 4.4 speed, but the Steelers aren’t a track team. The Steelers want football players as Mike Tomlin has said before. But do the Steelers actions follow with that rhetoric? I don’t think so. They seem to really just want athletes in the early rounds. Guys who they can mold into good players, but not great college players themselves.
The problem with drafting great athletes is the risk. Sure, there are the ones like DK Metcalf and Rashan Gary who turn into good players. But what about the ones that aren’t that. What about the Artie Burns’s of the world and the Terrell Edmunds’s.
Chase Claypool is a raw player and he has a real problem getting off the line of scrimmage. That is a hard problem to fix. Certainly, Claypool has that toughness to block well, but does he have the ability to break away from the corner. You don’t want to see opposing defenses playing bump and run with Claypool.
The other problem is his route running. I think this is one of the critical skills of being a good receiver. If you cannot separate from the defender than you cannot get open. If you cannot get open then you won’t get the ball from the quarterback and he will have to look to other receivers. Claypool wasn’t getting open at Notre Dame and so why would that change with the Steelers? The Steelers have new coach Bryan McClendon who does not have the track record that Daryl Drake has. What makes the Steelers thing McClendon can turn Claypool around?
The answer is clearly, yes. Chase Claypool is a reach. Certainly, major media around the team will claim this is a high upside pick. I acknowledge the ceiling is high for Claypool, but the floor is low. The draft is the lifeblood of an NFL team.
The Steelers need to constantly be hitting on receivers to be effective. It doesn’t look like Juju Smith-Schuster will get a second-contract; so, Chase Claypool will need to be in the lineup in three-receiver sets in year two. You don’t draft a receiver with the 49th pick to draft another guy early again the next year although that looks like the way the Steelers are heading.