It was back on Feb. 27 that the NFL’s statistical research department sent out a tweet which seemed to officially confirm the unique qualities of Notre Dame senior receiver Chase Claypool.
Read the tweet: “Only two wideouts to measure 6’4” & 235 pounds or bigger have run a sub-4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine since 2003: One is know as “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson). The other? Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool at the 2020 Combine.”
It’s now two days before the start of the 2020 NFL draft, and it’s anyone’s guess — likely from the first through the third round — as to when the 6-foot-4 1/4, 238-pound Claypool, the 2016 Abbotsford Secondary grad, will hear his name called.
Only two wideouts to measure 6’4” & 235 pounds or bigger have run a sub-4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine since 2003:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) February 28, 2020
One is known as “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson). The other?
Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool at the 2020 Combine.@NDFootball @ChaseClaypool pic.twitter.com/iHByYLhnp1
And while the draft experts are calling this class of eligible receivers an incredibly deep one, it’s tweets like the aforementioned which go a long ways towards setting Claypool apart as one whose pass-catching skill set is defined by a very unique collection of individual components.
Those who saw him play throughout high school with the Abbotsford Panthers know all too well how adept Claypool was at using his athleticism, and most specifically his verticality, to make game-changing catches against whatever defensive schemes were steered his way.
Yet while that specific skill received continual refinement against the best teams in college football, his work ethic over the same four-year span manifested itself in so many other areas, especially the vast strides he took in strength, agility and speed.
“In high school, no matter what the coverage was, he would find a way to go up and get the ball and make big plays,” Jay Fujimura, his high school coach at Abbotsford, remembered Tuesday of a 2015 season in which Claypool caught 58 passes for 1,473 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Panthers.
“That’s what he did this season (at Notre Dame),” continued Fujimura of Claypool who caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. “He was going up and beating guys for the ball, winning those jump balls, then getting a lot of YAC yards underneath. All the things he did in high school seemed to transfer. His senior year at Notre Dame looked like his senior year in high school. He looked like the same kind of dominant player.”
The consensus among the draft experts is that at the top end of the receiver class are names like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs lll, as well as Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
Yet several draft analysts have made a point to trumpet the virtues of Claypool, and how they might best be suited in the NFL.
Canadian-born former NFL receiver Nate Burleson, during an episode of the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, had his comments brought to light as part of a Claypool article on 247sports.com.
“I am looking at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the middle of the first round,” said Burleson of a team which of course added quarterback Tom Brady in the off-season to lead a receiving core which already includes Chris Godwin (third) and Mike Evans (13th), both of whom finished in the Top 15 in the NFL in receiving yards last season.
“So now you add in a third wide receiver,” continued Burleson of Claypool. “Can you imagine that frame against second-tier or third-tier defensive backs. Here’s the thing…I guarantee you this: If they get Chase Claypool, this will be the best wide receiver core that Tom Brady has ever played with.”
As well, Sports Illustrated’s John Maakaron saw Claypool’s skill set as the perferct fit with the Detroit Lions who have QB-1 Matthew Stafford back and healthy after back issues curtailed the second half of his 2019 campaign.
Wrote Maakaron: “Without question, the Fighting Irish alum is among the best run blockers in the class of receivers, so his presence instantly aids the Lions offence. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell could decide to utilize Claypool along with T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James to create extreme mismatches for opposing defensive coordinators to try and figure out. Or you could line up Claypool on the inside in multiple receiver sets and match up against opposing linebackers.”
At present, Lions’ starters Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are not signed beyond the 2020 season.
Additionally, ESPN’s pioneering NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., had Claypool pegged as the 30th overall pick in the first round to Green Bay in one of his mock drafts.
“Claypool had an electrifying combine, running a 4.42 40 and putting up a 40.5-inch vertical at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds,” wrote Kiper. “This might be a slight reach, but a team could fall in love with his traits, and he produced last season, catching 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. He could be a matchup nightmare for Aaron Rodgers.”
If not for spontaneously deciding to upload his highlight tape to social media, who knows where receiving prospect Chase Claypool would be today?@ChaseClaypool | @NDFootball pic.twitter.com/1H4SfEN28O— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 16, 2020
Fujimura has studied Claypool’s progress through his career with the Fighting Irish, and it’s apparent to him how his former player will be able create mismatches at the highest level.
“When you look at all the other top receivers you can’t really compare Chase to any of those guys because he’s quite a bit bigger and he’s quite a bit heavier,” says Fujimura, “aside from maybe Michael Pittman out of USC (6-4, 223).
“With Chase, it’s his ability to play on the boundary, his ability to play on the field side, his ability to play inside slot,” continues Fujimura. “A linebacker will have trouble with his speed. A corner will have trouble with his physicality. A safety will have trouble with his size. His skill set is just different.”
Then there is the matter of his speed.
Claypool timed at the aforementioned 4.42-seconds in the 40-yard dash at his NFL combine workout.
As close as Fujimura can remember, Claypool was running “just over a 4.5-ish time, hand timed, when he was leaving high school. I think it was 4.55 or 4.56. Then, when he was training in California, he said he ran a laser 4.5 and then he told me that he was going to run under that time at the combine.
“I said ‘Huh….,’” Fujimura laughed in remembrance. “Then I said to him ‘If you do that, you’re going to turn some heads.’ So then he goes out and he does it.”
That 4.42 time has opened up so many possibilities in the minds of NFL general managers.
“He surprised a lot of people with his deceptive speed,” adds Fujimura. “With a big guy that can run that fast and is that strong? He can get over top of you, and if you try to press him and slow him down, he’s too strong. And now they’re talking about the match-up problems he’ll make in the NFL, so the best players in the world are going to have some issues trying to cover him. That says a lot about the kind of player he is.”
Hear my story.— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) April 19, 2020
Feel my motivation.
See my journey.
This weekend it all comes together pic.twitter.com/LfZrRAIsKP
Fujimura and the rest of the B.C. high school football community have seen how Claypool’s work ethic has carried him to his current place on the precipice of joining the NFL.
“That’s the thing about him, he’s gotten better every year, and he’s played special teams for four years, so you know he is a team guy,” Fujimura says.
“He likes to hit, and he is not afraid to be physical,” he adds. “He still has so much potential, so it’s scary with a guy that big. Draft this guy and four years from now, who knows what kind of player you’re going to have on your hands.”
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