A new pair of quarterbacks, a renewed drive and a playbook that is now a bit more open after a rough sophomore season has Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool feeling rather confident in his abilities and his potential production in the 2022 season.
Still, despite the additions of Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett in the offseason, some maturity from Claypool, and a second season under Matt Canada’s offensive scheme that will include some new additions after a handicapped year with Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ third-year receiver continues to be overlooked ahead of fantasy football drafts, currently holding down the WR50 spot in his average draft position.
That seems a bit low for a guy profiling as a No. 2 opposite Diontae Johnson in an offense that will give him plenty of opportunities to produce once again. Knowing that, Claypool landed at No. 5 on Pro Football Focus’s top 10 fantasy football “sleepers” rankings by writer Ethan Maser Tuesday morning.
Claypool was the second wide receiver “sleeper” behind Arizona’s Rondale Moore on the list.
“This one was so shocking that I double-checked to make sure his ADP was correct,” Maser writes regarding Claypool’s inclusion on the list. “Claypool is entering Year 3 of his career and has, thus far, been an inconsistent, albeit occasionally elite player….Claypool posted the 68th-best grade among receivers last year, which really doesn’t create a ton of confidence that he can be something better moving forward, but there are enough vacated targets for Claypool to break through and establish himself as one of the league’s best.
“Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky are both mediocre QB options, although Pickett might just give Claypool the best chance to succeed. Pickett, in his final year at Pitt, posted a 9.7-yard average depth of target (aDOT) while Trubisky topped out at 9.4 in his second season in the NFL,” Maser added regarding Claypool’s ranking. “Obviously, comparing NFL to college statistics isn’t the best, but Pickett’s 47.6% accuracy percentage on 20-plus-yard passes ranked eighth highest in the nation (min. 25 attempts). A better deep ball passer will mesh well with Claypool’s game, which is normally based around deeper targets and big plays. He has shown the potential to be a top-24 receiver in the past (WR14 in his rookie season) and when considering that this is a make-or-break year for him, he has upside as a late-round pick.”
Aside from the sharp decline in touchdowns — which really sapped his fantasy football production overall in 2021 — Claypool wasn’t very far off from his rookie-year production as a second-year pro. He had just three less receptions and 13 fewer yards in 2021 compared to his meteoric rise in 2020.
The talent is still there, as are the opportunities in the Steelers’ offense, especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud now elsewhere.
With the additions of Trubisky and Pickett into the fold, Claypool should be able to make some plays down the field again without the need for 50/50 balls, which became prevalent late in the Ben Roethlisberger era.
He’s already acknowledged he needs to stay on his feet more in 2022, and needs to keep his emotions in check when on the field as well. He still believes he’s a top 3 receiver in the NFL, too. Now it’s about proving it in 2022. Should he do that, he could be the sleeper of the year in fantasy football circles.