The Pittsburgh Steelers, typically, are the sort of team that is more inclined to be excited when a player underperforms at the NFL Scouting Combine than when he exceeds expectations. They tend to put the most value in the tape, and if what they see at the Combine doesn’t contradict what they see on the field, there’s no reason to worry about him as a player, but an underwhelming Combine performance could increase the likelihood that he will be available later in the draft.
So when Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool posted a 4.42-second 40-yard dash time back in February, the Steelers weren’t necessarily jumping for joy, because part of them was thinking, maybe this time puts him out of their range. At least, that was the case for offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
“I was really excited when he ran a sub-4.4 at the Combine, and I don’t get excited because boy, you just assume you’re probably not going to get to him at 49”, he said. “I’ve come to appreciate our system and the evaluation and just the development. I knew it was a pretty deep draft at receivers, and you’re always hopeful that one of them was going to be there, and it just so happened Chase was there, and I’m awful glad that he was. I saw them come off in the first round and then tonight, and we were just hopeful that we were potentially going to get a chance to discuss Chase at that pick”.
The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft saw six wide receivers drafted, the most since 2014. Only two wide receivers were taken in the first round last year. Another four wide receivers were drafted between picks 33 and 48 of the second round before the Steelers drafted Claypool, so he was the 11th player off the board at his position.
Claypool is now the fourth wide receiver that the Steelers have drafted in as many years who was selected either in the second round or very early in the third. JuJu Smith-Schuster was selected at 62 in 2017, followed by James Washington at 60 in 2018, and finally Diontae Johnson with pick 66 in 2019.
All three remain with the team and represent their projected starting lineup for 2020, so the big 6’4”, 230ish-pound Claypool will have to fight his way into the lineup, likely situationally at first.
While Smith-Schuster if 6’1”, Deon Cain is the only other wide receiver on the roster that is six feet tall or more and has caught a pass with the team. Other wide receivers hitting that mark are Amara Darboh, Anthony Johnson, and Saeed Blacknail, all of whom are 6’2”.