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Chase Claypool is Having an Elite Season; But is He the Best Rookie WR in the NFL?



If you’re to believe ESPN’s list of the best rookies in the NFL, Steelers 2nd round selection Chase Claypool isn’t one of them. He’s not in their top 10, nor was he one of their four just missed picks. Where’s Claypool? All the way down in the “also receiving votes” list along with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Julian Blackmon, CeeDee Lamb and Damien Lewis. That makes him between the 15th and 19th best rookie in the NFL this season. Which, all things considered, isn’t bad for the 49th overall selection.

Claypool would have to have a monster year to beat out Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow, and receivers rarely win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, especially compared to quarterbacks and running backs. Since 2000, Anquan Boldin, Percy Harvin and Odell Beckham Jr. are the only wideouts to win it.

So where does Claypool rank on the season? Here’s ESPN’s entire list of top rookies.

  1. QB Justin Herbert
  2. QB Joe Burrow
  3. WR Justin Jefferson
  4. OT Tristan Wirfs
  5. DE Chase Young
  6. RB James Robinson
  7. WR Tee Higgins
  8. RB Antonio Gibson
  9. OT Mekhi Becton
  10. S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Just missed: T Jedrick Wills Jr., OL Mike Onwenu, CB Jaylon Johnson, S Jeremy Chinn

If you take out the defense and non-skill offensive players, Claypool would fall behind only Herbert and Burrow, Justin Jefferson, James Robinson, Tee Higgins and Antonio Gibson and on the same level as CeeDee Lamb. At worst ESPN is saying he’s the 4th best rookie receiver in the league.

So is he? Here’s Claypool’s numbers compared with his WR peers.

Chase Claypool – 35 receptions on 57 targets / 500 yards / 14.3 yards per reception / 9 tds / 28 total 1st downs / 129.4 QBR when targeted
Justin Jefferson – 42 receptions on 54 targets / 752 yards / 18.1 yards per reception / 3 tds / 29 1st downs / 106.4 QBR when targeted
Tee Higgins – 40 receptions on 61 targets / 603 yards / 15.1 yards per reception / 4 tds / 32 1st downs / 119.8 QBR when targeted
CeeDee Lamb – 44 receptions on 68 targets / 595 yards / 13.5 yards per reception / 3 tds / 29 1st downs / 101.0 QBR when targeted

The 11th receiver taken in the NFL draft, Claypool falls behind the competition based on receptions and yards, but dwarfs them in touchdowns (seven receiving plus two on the ground) and QBR when targeted. Based on those numbers, it’s pretty much a draw. What’s undoubtedly hurting Claypool is his perceived value to the offense. Claypool started out the season behind Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster on the depth chart and has only played in 64% of the team’s offensive snaps on the season, well behind Jefferson (74%) and Higgins (70%). Although Claypool has seen those numbers increase as the season has progressed.

While Claypool’s overall numbers are impressive, he’s still 3rd on the team in receptions, second in receiving yards and 2nd in total yards from scrimmage. On such a balanced offense, it’s harder to stand out.

Higgins has turned himself into the Bengals’ de facto number two receiver behind Tyler Boyd and is 2nd on the team in receptions, yards and tied for first with four touchdowns. Is Higgins having a better season than Claypool? That’s definitely up for debate.

Lamb started the season off hot, but without a real starting quarterback in Dallas, he’s seen his numbers slump in recent weeks. It would be a surprise if he ended up with better numbers than Claypool when it’s all said and done.

Then there’s Jefferson. Playing on a Minnesota team that lost Stefon Diggs, he has more receiving yards as the team’s 2nd and 3rd leading receiving combined (762 for Jefferson, 761 for Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph) as well as a gaudy 18.1 yards per reception, which is 4th in the NFL. Jefferson also has four games with over 100 yards receiving , is 7th in the entire NFL in yards and is 8th in the league in YAC amongst receivers. It would be hard to argue that Jefferson hasn’t been the best rookie receiver in the league this year.

So Claypool is at worst the 4th best receiver and is possibly the current runner-up behind Justin Jefferson. Despite being the 11th receiver off the board and drafted to a team loaded with offensive talent, Claypool has risen to (near) the top of the rookie rankings just nine weeks into the season. Pretty good for a player that some thought was more of a project (or a tight end) than a polished NFL-ready receiver.

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T.J. Watt Owns Second-Best Defensive Player of the Year Odds



Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt holds the second-best odds in the league to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year at 7/4, courtesy of BetOnline.

Watt’s nine sacks are tied for the third-most in the NFL, and he is tied for second with 14 tackles-for-loss. He also has 32 total tackles, an interception and a league-leading 30 hits on the quarterback.

Three other Steelers defenders are also listed as contenders for the award, with defensive end Cam Heyward (25/1), defensive end Stephon Tuitt (25/1) and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (33/1) all trailing Watt.

The only defender with better odds than Watt is Pittsburgh native and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is seeking his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award. Donald leads the NFL with ten sacks.

Watt finished tied for third in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2019 with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaw Barrett. Watt led the league with eight forced fumbles and recorded 14.5 sacks, but New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore ultimately took home the honor.

Watt has been selected to two Pro Bowls, and was named First-Team All-Pro in 2019. He has also received NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors three times.

His brother J.J. of the Houston Texans saw his odds shorten to 33/1 following a dominant showing on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions, where he recorded four tackles and a pick-six.

Watt will look to improve upon his candidacy when the Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday afternoon. He has 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in seven career games versus Baltimore.

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Matt Canada Will Be Able to Coach for Steelers vs. Ravens on Wednesday



While the Baltimore Ravens will get a handful of players back onto the field with their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers pushed back to Wednesday, the Steelers will also be getting a benefit from the arrangement.

Quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was expected to miss the game when it was scheduled for Tuesday, will be able to coach, Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said on Tuesday.

Canada, the Steelers’ first-year quarterbacks coach, has been credited for making overall schematic changes to the Steelers’ offense coming into this season, though offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner calls plays on game days.

The Steelers will still be without special teams coordinator Danny Smith, who also tested positive last week. Smith will be replaced by assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart.

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TV Forces Steelers Into Pair of Weekday Afternoon Games



Get ready for some weekday afternoon football.

The Steelers’ Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens has been rescheduled to Wednesday, Dec. 2 and will kick off from Heinz Field at 3:40 p.m.

As a result of that postponement, the Steelers’ Week 13 game against the Washington Football Team has been moved from Sunday to Monday, Dec. 7 and that game will kick off at 5 p.m.

Both of the early afternoon weeknight times are a result of television commitments. NBC, which will broadcast the game against the Ravens on Wednesday, did not wish to preempt its coverage of the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York, which is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

A broadcast network has not been announced for the Steelers’ Week 13 game against Washington, but the 5 p.m. start time is necessary because ESPN holds an exclusive national broadcast window for their Monday Night Football franchise. The Buffalo Bills will play the San Francisco 49ers in that game.

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