The Pittsburgh Steelers selected the former Notre Dame star in the second round (49th overall) of the NFL draft Friday night.
Claypool has been Canada’s top player since 2011, when Baylor’s offensive lineman Danny Watkins of Kelowna, British Columbia made the first round (# 23 overall) for the Philadelphia Eagles and Orlando Franklin, from Toronto, was selected in the second round (No. 46 in total) by the Denver Broncos of the University of Miami.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with him,” said Steelers’ offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the Pittsburgh website about Claypool. “He is one of those rare types of combination of size and speed.
“There is no job too small. It will block. He volunteers for special teams. This guy is a soccer player. He has many unique traits for the job. Lots of things are really exciting. Gives you a potential red zone threat. He is a player in the outside position first and also gives you the option to play in the slot machine.
“He wins a lot of one-on-one duels. I’ve never seen him not winning a one-on-one type game. “
Claypool, a six-foot-four, 238-pound player from Abbotsford, British Columbia, was Notre Dame’s first wide receiver in 2019 with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 150 career receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“This man is a touchdown machine that will do well with Ben Roethlisberger and this reception group,” said former NFL star receiver Michael Irvin on the ESPN television broadcast.
Claypool raised his eyebrows at the NFL, covering the 40-yard shot in 4.42 seconds. He joined former Detroit star Calvin Johnson as the only receivers six feet four inches and 235 pounds or more to run in 4.45 seconds on the combine.
Neville Gallimore of Ottawa, a defensive tackle with the Oklahoma Sooners, was later drafted in the third round, 82nd overall, by the Dallas Cowboys.
The six-foot-two, 304-pound Gallimore had 30 tackles, four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss last season. He appeared in 52 games – 38 as a starter – in Oklahoma, recording 148 tackles, 18 tackles for defeat, nine sacks and five forced fumbles.
“What an excellent pick-up”
Claypool and Gallimore had both been selected as the NFL’s first-round late pick in various simulation projects. They were also among the 58 potential candidates invited to participate virtually in the debates on Thursday and Friday.
Draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Daniel Jeremiah saw the two as selections on Friday in the second and third rounds. The first round took place on Thursday and the repechage ends on Saturday.
The Steelers (8-8) missed the playoffs last year after finishing second at AFC North. Veteran quarterback Roethlisberger, 38, missed most of the season due to an elbow injury.
“What a great pickup with Ben Roethlisberger coming back to expand the reception group they have,” said Irvin.
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner also liked the selection.
“When you look at this team, they are built around so many different things,” said Warner. “They are good at defense, they have high school, they go on the offensive line so I like them to add another weapon on the outside.
“Good young receivers to build around JuJu Smith-Schuster. Big Ben will be happy. He’s healthy, I like where Pittsburgh is. “
The addition of Claypool certainly provides Pittsburgh with many offensive options. It could combine with Jones-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson to give the Steelers four solid receivers on the field at the same time.
Having Claypool and new tight end Eric Ebron (six feet four inches, 253 pounds) also gives the Steelers two big goals in the red zone, which they desperately need. Last year, Pittsburgh was the last overall in TD Red Zone production (35 percent) and the only NFL team not to score 30 or more points in a game.
Claypool gives Pittsburgh versatility because he could play at reception or at the 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.