A lot of teams were considering Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool as a potential tight end heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, some requesting that he run through tight end work at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. That was not an issue for the big man, even if he saw himself as a wide receiver.
At 6’4” and 232 pounds, it’s reasonable for some teams to feel that way, and for practical purposes, a distinction is largely going to be arbitrary. There are plenty of situations in which the Pittsburgh Steelers use their tight ends as a wide receiver. There are situations in which they use their wide receivers—like JuJu Smith-Schuster or James Washington—as a tight end.
One of the reasons teams saw Claypool through this prism is because of his physicality. He takes pride in his work as a blocker and relishes putting a defender on his back, even posting highlights of it on social media. He refused to be taken off of special teams as a coverage man.
The rookie recently made an appearance with Kevin Dotson on Living Room Sports through KDKA. Overall, in all honestly, it was a pretty boring interview, since the two players were just asked about all the things that we’ve heard about them since they were drafted. But I did like his answer when he was asked about throwing blocks.
“It’s almost a chance to play the defensive side of the ball, if you will, just that extra physicality”, he said. “I always played defense growing up, so if I can kind of get the chance to take someone to the ground legally, I’m gonna jump all over that opportunity. I had some bets with the offensive linemen throughout the Notre Dame season that I’d have more pancakes than some of them. Maybe we’ll get that going with me and Kevin, but it’s just something that I love to do”.
I don’t know how many wide receivers there are who grew up playing on defense. Usually it goes the other way, with wide receivers converting into cornerbacks. But it certainly helps explain why he doesn’t shy way from the physical aspects of his position, which makes him fit in with the wide receiver room currently, as this was a quality the team also saw in Smith-Schuster and Washington.
Chances are, Claypool will have more opportunities to showcase his physicality while he is playing special teams than during his functions as a wide receiver. The Steelers didn’t draft him in the second round because they needed an immediate starter. He will contribute, but in what capacity and to what extent remains to be seen.