Steelers rookie standout WR Chase Claypool needs to improve his ability to highpoint the football to take his game to another level.
Every year at the NFL Scouting Combine football fanatics like myself are treated to a smorgasbord of draftable talent available at every position, with specific drills and tests administered to help identify and measure each candidates professional potential. The wide receiver prospects always put on an incredible display of speed and athleticism.
The 40 yard dash official times greatly impact draft positioning for the young pass catchers, but are often an unreliable precursor of NFL success. Other drills used to measure an athlete’s overall explosive attributes are the broad jump and the vertical leap. Although both these drills provide valuable information and are great topics of discussion, they aren’t an accurate barometer of future success at the highest level either. It really doesn’t matter how fast you can run, or how high you can jump, if you struggle to catch the football consistently.
The most athletic prospects regularly post 40″+ verticals, leaving plenty of starting QBs and team executives daydreaming about the potential of one of these sky-walkers to highpoint the football for their offense. Problem is the majority of these prospects blessed with high flying capabilities lack the knowledge and courage to utilize them adequately. Consider former Steelers WR Martavis Bryant and current Steelers freak Chase Claypool as prime examples.
Both of these gentlemen are athletic freaks blessed with superior length and athleticism. Both men ran a 4.42 forty at the Combine, coupled with a 40″ vertical. Both measured 6’4″, but Claypool is substantially heavier weighing in at 238 lbs, making his 40 time and vertical even more impressive. Although each receiver enjoyed impactful rookie campaigns with the Steelers; particularly as deep threat options, that’s about where their similarities end.
Bryant played the position much smaller than his measurables would suggest. He displayed a tendency to “alligator arms” the ball, whether going across the middle or needing to leave his feet to highpoint the reception. Only he knows if his resistance to do so was due to self preservation or a severe lack of cojones; maybe both, but the results speak for themselves.
Claypool has already proven his ability and willingness to highpoint the ball, and his courage and toughness are unquestioned. He still has plenty of room for improvement; ranging from route running, footwork, to making hands catches away from his body. Hard work put in during the off season should result in substantial gains in these areas.
One area to reexamine immediately that could make a huge impact during the playoffs would be focusing on going more vertical, and less horizontal, when attempting to high point a reception opportunity. Improvement in this area is often something as simple as body control, which Claypool has plenty of, and proper footwork prior to liftoff, an aforementioned area in need of improvement.
Looking back over his numerous opportunities this season on similar situations; including multiple pass interference penalties, a troubling tendency is quickly revealed. Claypool routinely leans backward at a 45 degree angle when he leaps to highpoint the ball. This is probably something he does instinctively trying to block out or shield away the defender.
Problem is it results in him not utilizing his excellent length to it’s full potential by greatly reducing his catch radius. Similar to a big man in basketball bringing the ball down to his waist after a rebound. He is doing the smaller defenders a favor by making it easier for them to compete with him. Nothing wrong with being a nice guy, but it’s really not necessary or advisable on the football field.
Old habits are hard to break, especially when done subconsciously. He may not even be aware of his tendencies, but I have to believe that Steelers WR coach Ike Hilliard has to be cognizant of it. A simple increase in focus and attention to detail on this matter could make a huge impact on the Steelers offense and their potential for success in the playoffs.