It shouldn’t exactly come as a shock if a second-round pick comes into the league with relatively high early expectations for himself. A lot of second-round picks end up proving to be better players than those who were drafted ahead of them, reflecting the variability in large groups that exists and can’t easily be determined simply be draft order.
Chase Claypool is one such player who has already shown some early indications of being a better NFL player than some players who were drafted ahead of him. He has more receiving touchdowns than any other rookie, for one thing.
“As soon as I was drafted, I knew I was going to have a good impact because of the receiver room and how they all play well off each other and the special teams aspect”, he recently said during an interview with TSN. “As soon as I was drafted, I was super locked in on making an instant impact and doing the things I can do to fulfil that. It’s just about staying on top of things and not letting stuff catch up to you, was my biggest step that I had to keep doing throughout camp and the season”.
As we saw, it didn’t take Claypool too long to get involved, even in spite of the fact that there was no preseason and the only in-person work that he was able to get in with his team prior to the start of the year was in an accelerated and yet abbreviated training camp.
His snap count was limited in the first two games of the season—just 19 in the opener and then 24 a week later—but his two highlight-reel catches, including an 84-yard touchdown, helped open eyes, and while Diontae Johnson was battling injuries during a three-game stretch, that opened the door for him to lock down steady playing time.
Since week three, Claypool has played at least 65 percent of the snaps in every game, up to nearly 80 percent on a couple of instances. His production in-game, including targets, however, has wavered, though that is not terribly surprising in this offense.
On the season, he ranks only fourth on the Steelers now in targets with 34, and in receptions with 23, but his 375 receiving yards are the most, 29 yards ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has clear leads in the other two categories. His five touchdowns are also the most (and he also has two rushing touchdowns on top of that).
While it may have been a tad premature to anoint him the great one already—his production is going to vary from week to week, as will his role—it is already apparent that Claypool is and will be a serious weapon for years to come, and the fact that he has had as good as start as he has had is encouraging—although he has to stop fumbling.