Canadian receiver Chase Claypool finally knows where his football future lies.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected the former Notre Dame star in the second round (49th overall) of the NFL draft Friday night.
Claypool is the highest Canadian taken since 2011 when Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins, a native of Kelowna, B.C., went in the first round (No. 23 overall) to the Philadelphia Eagles and Toronto native Orlando Franklin was selected in the second round (No. 46 overall) by the Denver Broncos out of the University of Miami.
“There is no job too small. He will block. He volunteers for special teams. This guy is a football player. He has a lot of unique traits for the position. A lot of things to be really excited about. Gives you a potential red-zone threat. He is an outside position player first and gives you the option of playing in the slot as well.
“He wins an awful lot of one-on-ones. I have never seen him not win a one-on-one type play.”
Claypool, a six-foot-four, 238-pound native of Abbotsford, B.C., was Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019 with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 TDs. He registered 150 career receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“This man is a touchdown machine that will do well with Ben Roethlisberger and that receiving group,” former NFL star receiver Michael Irvin said on ESPN’s draft telecast.
Claypool raised eyebrows at the NFL combine, covering the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. He joined former Detroit star Calvin Johnson as the only receivers measuring six foot four and 235 pounds or bigger to run under 4.45 seconds at the combine.
Ottawa’s Neville Gallimore, a defensive tackle with the Oklahoma Sooners, was also expected to be selected Friday night.
‘What a great pickup’
Both Claypool and Gallimore had been pegged as late first-round NFL picks in various mock drafts. They were also among 58 prospects who were invited to participate virtually in Thursday and Friday’s proceedings.
Draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Daniel Jeremiah saw both as Friday selections during the second and third rounds. The first round was Thursday and the draft wraps up Saturday.
The Steelers (8-8) missed the playoffs last year after finishing second in the AFC North. Veteran quarterback Roethlisberger, 38, missed most of the season with an elbow injury.
“What a great pickup with Ben Roethlisberger coming back to expand on that receiving group that they have,” Irvin said.
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner also liked the selection.
“When you look at this team, they’re built around so many different things,” Warner said. “They’re good up front on defence, they’ve got the secondary, they’ve go the offensive line and so I love that they add another weapon on the outside.
“Some good, young receivers to build around JuJu Smith-Schuster. Big Ben is going to be happy. He gets healthy, I like where Pittsburgh is at.”
The addition of Claypool certainly gives Pittsburgh plenty of offensive options. He could combine with Jones-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson to give the Steelers four solid receivers on the field at one time.
Having Claypool and new tight end Eric Ebron (six foot four, 253 pounds) also gives the Steelers two big targets in the red zone, something they desperately need. Last year, Pittsburgh was last overall in red-zone TD production (35 per cent) and the NFL’s only team not to score 30 or more points in a game.
Claypool gives Pittsburgh versatility as he could play at either receiver or tight end. He also follows a trend for the Steelers, who took receivers in the second round in 2017 (Smith-Schuster) and ’18 (Washington) before selecting Johnson in the third round last year.