Chase Claypool has 13 receptions in the first four games of his rookie season after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him to enter a wide receiver room that already includes three day-two draft picks taken over the span of the previous three draft classes. He has produced 261 receiving yards, averaging over 20 yards per reception, with four receiving touchdowns (and one rushing touchdown on four rushes for 14 yards).
And even though he was drafted in the top 50 overall picks, he was still taken after 10 other wide receivers were drafted, with six going in the first round and four going ahead of him in the middle of the second round.
So far through five weeks—and remembering that most have played one more game—Claypool has the seventh-most receptions of all rookie wide receivers for the fourth-most yards and the most receiving touchdowns. No other rookie wide receiver has more than two touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has him as the second-highest-graded rookie wide receiver both overall and in the receiving category, behind only Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.
So how did it happen that so many receivers were taken ahead of him? Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jefferson all went in the first round. Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman flew off the board at the top of the second, followed by Laviska Shenault and KJ Hamler before the Steelers got to Claypool at 49.
“It was definitely a deep class this year”, Claypool told his host Pat McAfee earlier today during an interview. “Seeing those guys’ names get called before you, me knowing what I was capable of, it’s not frustrating, because you know no matter where you get picked, you’re gonna make an impact and you’re gonna do well, so it’s only a matter of times before these teams who passed up on you start shaking their head. I’m just happy that I was able to do it sooner than later”.
The Steelers have become known as something of a wide receiver factory. Churning out Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and now Claypool, among others, under Mike Tomlin. Four of those have made Pro Bowls, others had potential to get there, while still others have a chance.
The 6’4” 234-pounder they call Mapletron has an opportunity to become the Steelers’ next great wide receiver, and he has physical gifts that none of them had before. Claypool has already made some of the most impressive plays of the 2020 season around the league, and stepped up in clutch moments to help close out games. It’s hard not to get optimistic about his future—and frustrated if you’re one of the teams who passed over him.