2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
Now that the NFL Scouting Combine has taken place, we can have a much better sense of who players are and where they will be drafted. Draft position ends up being the most important factor in ranking incoming rookies for dynasty fantasy football purposes and the combine information HEAVILY feeds into where teams draft players. Chase Claypool is a great argument for why the combine matters for NFL teams but in the inherent risk in “double counting” combine performance and draft capital. Claypool is a really interesting prospect who was not really on the fantasy football radar until he posted a truly absurd combine. He is now one of my favorite prospects based on what I expect him to cost in dynasty rookie drafts not solely because of his combine but also because of where we can expect him to be drafted
2020 NFL Draft Chase Claypool Profile
The rare football player to come from Canada, Claypool set basically every record there was to set at his high school before committing to Notre Dame. He was not a five-star prospect but was included in basically every major “Top 300” list from the nationwide scouting services. He was not redshirted in his first season for the Fighting Irish, which as you know is a big deal for pass catching prospects. He is also a bit interesting in terms of profile because depending on who you ask, he was listed as either a tight end or a wide receiver. At the NFL level, there isn’t a huge distinction amongst these positions for the uber high-end athletes (though George Kittle and Travis Kelce are both great run blockers).
He played in all 12 games as a true freshman, though he had only five receptions for 81 yards. He was mostly a special teams player and actually lead their special teams in tackles which doesn’t matter but is just funny to me. He did, however, have an immediate impact as a starter in his second year at Notre Dame. Claypool recorded 29 receptions and 402 yards with two touchdowns which sounds like a mediocre season for a 19-year-old until you realize that was good for a 16% dominator rating and was second on the team in receptions (for one of the worst passing offenses Notre Dame has ever had).
He furthered his role in a better offense in 2018 with 50 receptions, 639 yards, four touchdowns and an 18% Dominator Rating in his junior season. He was playing behind future Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin but outproduced Saints tight end Alize Mack. Future Green Bay Packers running back Dexter Williams dominated the offense in terms of touchdowns and touches but 2018 cannot be graded as bad season for Claypool.
Where he really emerged was his final season, where he became the clear #1 in the Notre Dame passing offense. On the way to a 33% Dominator Rating, he recorded 66 receptions with 1,037 yards and 13 (!!!) touchdowns. Claypool had a four-touchdown game against Navy, 6-66-1 against a stout Georgia defense, and 3-62-2 against Stanford. No one else on the team had more than 43 receptions or seven total touchdowns.
There has been some chatter that Claypool might be better as a tight end in the NFL and honestly, for fantasy football, we would probably prefer him be listed at tight end but after a combine where he weighed in at 238 pounds at 6’4 and ran a 4.42 40 yard dash, he is going to be enlisted to play as a wide receiver almost for sure.
Projecting Chase Claypool To The NFL
Admittedly, Claypool is the sort of player that I am wont to fall in love with. The red flags exist for sure; he is not an early declare and will be 22 in his first season in the NFL. He never crested 18% Dominator Rating until his final season at Notre Dame and is a classic “late riser”. If the NFL does not value Claypool enough to draft him in the second or third round, my pre-draft positional will definitely be irrational exuberance.
Some mock drafters have started to move him up into the third and fourth tier of wide receivers where it is possible that he could have real draft equity that would improve his sim scores. With a pick value of 100th overall, his comps are in the Nick Toon, Gary Jennings, Chris Conley tier of player. With a pick value of 50, some more encouraging names like Deebo Samuel enter the fray. The Sim Scores from Rotoviz’s Box Score Scout are not super encouraging. If you wanted to paint that in a positive light, you coul say that there are very few prospects Claypool’s size to begin with at wide receiver so the sample is super limited.
The film watchers mostly agree that Claypool has physical tools needed to be an NFL player. This is what the Draft Netwok had to say about his game: “The appeal with Claypool stems from his size, catch radius and straight-line speed. He finds success in contested situations and has the ability to out-muscle most defenders. With that said, separation quickness, release technique and inconsistent catching technique are notable items to be concerned with when projecting him to the next level. Claypool is likely to be challenged with plenty of contact at the release and catch point in the NFL, making it necessary for him to continue to showcase his physical demeanor and win in tightly contested situations. Claypool has limitations to be mindful of, but he can fulfill a niche role as a big slot that provides a complementary weapon for an offense that features speed and separation specialists to draw coverage away from Claypool and provide spacing for him to work.”
Players in the athletic + productive + overaged bucket surely not surefire bets to succeed in the NFL. Generally speaking, when the NFL tells us these players are going to get a chance to play (via draft equity) we should believe them. If Claypool is a top-three round pick, I am going to have a very hard time not being all-in on him.