One of the most difficult transitions that wide receiver often have to make going from the college level to the pros is the necessity—in most cases, anyway—to learn multiple positions. In college, many wide receivers are only asked to play in one spot, and with a limited route tree, if they excel well enough in doing it, because their coaches don’t have the incentive to widen their skill set, knowing they only have them for a couple of years.
That wasn’t quite the fate of Chase Claypool, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, but it is fair to say that he doesn’t come into the NFL with an elite route tree. He has worked in the slot some, but it is something he has to learn.
Nevertheless, the Canadian-born receiver does see his size and flexibility as one of his greatest attributes, believing that he will be capable of moving around at the NFL level. It’s easier said now than done once they get on the field.
When asked about what he felt his strength was, he said, “just [being] versatile. A receiver who can move inside, outside, and create mismatches, and then even win on the outside. So I just think versatility for sure”.
After the Steelers drafted him, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner made it pretty clear what their immediate expectations would be for him. He called Claypool “an outside player first”, but added that he “has shown the ability to play in the slot as well”. He also later said that “he’s probably more comfortable in being an outside-type receiver”.
Given the already-difficult proposition of flexing out a wide receiver’s position capability, a process that is still ongoing with both James Washington and Diontae Johnson, the fact that this is going to be a limited offseason will only make it all the more difficult for Claypool.
From the sounds of it, I would not expect to see the 6’4” target align in the slot a lot this year, unless his playing time is very little and very specialized, in which case they may use him specifically as a big-bodied inside red-zone target.
Still, I think on a long-term timeline, he can be that very versatile inside-outside threat whom the Steelers can move across the formation and really expose mismatches against defenses, which may be his most exciting quality. You don’t see a lot of players his size who can primarily line up outside.