Generally speaking, NFL teams don’t want to ask draft prospects to change positions at the NFL level. That often means a delay in getting production out of their investments and the risk that the transition won’t go as hoped. However, sometimes players can benefit from changing positions from what they were in college to another position which might fit them better at the NFL level.
We see that most often on the offensive line, such as with former New York Giants guard Justin Pugh who played left tackle for Syracuse. There has been speculation that Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool could be a candidate for a position change at the NFL level, though in his case it would be from receiver to tight end.
Prospect: Chase Claypool (WR, Notre Dame)
Games Watched: vs. Louisville (2019), vs. Georgia (2019), vs. Navy (2019), vs. Iowa State (2019)
Red Flags: none
Games Played: 45
Receptions (ypc): 150 (14.4 yards per catch)
Games Played: 13
Receptions (ypc): 66 (15.7 yards per catch)
Best: Size, frame, long speed, versatility, vertical receiving, run after catch
Worst: Short-area quickness, blocking
Projection: A hybrid tight end convert in a spread offense that uses 12-personnel.
Notre Dame wide receiver is a big, long, and thick wide receiver who could be a candidate to transition to tight end at the NFL level. Claypool has experience as both a wide and slot receiver in Notre Dame’s offense. He is capable of threatening all three levels of a defense, producing on crossing routes, come-back routes, and on vertical routes. Claypool wastes little motion releasing off the line of scrimmage and is capable of using his size and physicality to separate from man coverage. He has deceptive speed for a big player, lengthening his stride to pick up yardage in the open field. Claypool is capable of creating big plays off of mesh concepts, opening his stride after the catch and proving difficult to run down when he catches the ball in space. His size, speed, and catch radius make him dangerous on vertical concepts as well. Claypool flashes the ability to adjust to the ball in the air, extending to catch the ball away from his frame and expand his catch radius. Claypool also flashes good field awareness and body control to toe-tap on the sideline or just inside of the end zone. He very good competitive toughness and a willingness to play through contact, make tough catches, and be physical in straining for extra yardage.
Claypool was not featured in Notre Dame’s blocking scheme despite his size and strength. He also needs further refinement as a pass catcher. Claypool does not run a varied or extensive route tree, and he isn’t a nuanced or savy route runner. Partly due to his size, he doesn’t sink his hips and has a tendency to round off his breaks.
Overall Grade: 6.2D - Has promising physical traits a team can win with, but needs a long-term plan for development. Has starting upside but needs to be developed first. [Grading Scale]
Claypool has an interesting projection to the NFL. As a receiver he has the potential to be a true height/weight/speed freak “X” receiver, but will need development to reach his potential.
There was speculation that Claypool could transition to a tight end role at the NFL level and him gaining 9 pounds between the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine (going from 229 to 238) seemed to support that speculation. A move to a “hybrid” tight end could play to Claypool’s strengths.
He is athletic enough to be a legitimate mismatch against linebackers and is already too big and physical for most defensive backs. He also excels when running vertically down the field and shows a good sense for seam routes and when attacking voids in zone coverages. Claypool is also surprisingly capable with the ball in his hands. He shows good vision to pick out running lanes, is willing to use his size and strength to run through arm tackles, and his long strides make him deceptively fast in the open field.
He shows hustle on special teams reps but his ability as a blocker is largely unknown. He was only rarely used in Notre Dame’s blocking schemes. Instead he was much more often used as a ball carrier on shallow crossing routes. But even as a hybrid tight end he will still need to block on occasion and that will be something teams will be interested to see. Claypool will also need to continue to hone his craft as a receiver, as his routes and hands are both inconsistent. He will need to become more detailed in his route running and while he is capable of impressive catches, he also has a slight tendency to fight the ball, which can lead to drops.