If not all, then nearly all were surprised when the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to net a second-round draft pick in exchange for third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool earlier this week just before the trade deadline.
While Claypool is physically gifted and has had some production in the past, the reality on the field hasn’t lived up to his potential, for the most part. The Steelers didn’t seem to want to part with him, however, so those who coveted him had to pay up.
And evidently others around the league can’t make sense of it. the Chicago Bears are the team that ultimately landed him, and they are a team that could potentially finish with a top-10 draft pick, sitting at 3-5 right now.
“I’m still not really sure why they did it”, an anonymous personnel executive with a team in the NFL told Jason La Canfora for the Washington Post recently in a run-down column of the winners and losers of the trade deadline period. The Steelers were decidedly in the winners category.
It is worth noting that there has been a general shift in philosophy around the league in recent years that has seemed to make teams more comfortable with moving draft capital for acquiring what they perceive to be proven talent.
There has been a significant adjustment with respect to the wide receiver position in particular. We saw numerous high-profile players at the position change teams via trade just this year, including Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and as if Steelers fans need any reminding, A.J. Brown. Second-year New York Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney was even dealt before the deadline to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Generally speaking, though, these players are either more proven than Claypool or cost less in terms of capital. It’s not surprising that others in the league are not on board with the price the Bears were willing to pay.
“You can get a Claypool-level player and probably better with that pick”, La Canfora quoted another anonymous personnel man, a general manager, as saying, scoffing at the notion that Chicago may have perceived the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft (and free agency) class as being weak at wide receiver.
Perhaps somebody like George Pickens? At least that’s what the Steelers are hoping. He was their second-round pick this year at wide receiver, and he has already made a number of exciting plays. But it’s not as though he’s put it all together already. We’ll see what the second half of the season holds for him, particularly now with a larger target share minus Claypool.