Week 3 of the NFL season kicks off with a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. Fantasy football managers have tough roster decisions to make entering the AFC North showdown. So let’s dive into whether you should start Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool against the Browns.
Should you start Chase Claypool vs. the Browns?
Even the most optimistic projections for the Steelers’ passing game had them no better than an average threat for defenses. Between an offensive line that lacks talent and uncertainty at quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers have to win games in an ugly fashion. Even their running game with Najee Harris lacks effectiveness (3.8 yards per carry for the team).
After seeing rookie George Pickens breakout in the preseason, there became an immediate concern for Claypool’s potential role within the offense. The 24-year-old has had moments of brilliance throughout his career but is also considerably inconsistent on a weekly basis. He’s averaged 53.8 yards per game but only caught 57.1% of targets since he gets so many vertical targets.
Through two games this year, Claypool clearly lacks rapport with Trubisky. He’s been targeted 12 times, catching eight passes for 44 yards. The scary part is he’s played 92% of snaps, which is far and away the largest total of his career.
Entering Week 3, Claypool is ranked at WR38 and No. 96 overall in our expert PPR fantasy football rankings. That makes Claypool a true flex option for fantasy managers. But based on everything we’ve seen this season, it’s hard to say he’s a good option for most lineups.
Our friends at Underdog Fantasy have projected Claypool to have four receptions for 40.5 yards. Based on his usage through two games, the receptions total is more interesting than the yards. But Claypool is a big-play threat, so all it takes is one reception for him to hit the higher play.
Regardless, expectations are low for Claypool.
The Browns’ defense has been one of the worst against receivers through two games, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Their busted coverages on Robbie Anderson’s 75-yard touchdown in Week 1 and Corey Davis’ 66-yard touchdown in Week 2 have skewed those numbers. This is a great defense that has made boneheaded mistakes.
If anything, the Steelers should use this game as the last chance for Claypool to find a rhythm with Trubisky before working Pickens into more action. Pickens has played 78% of snaps but hasn’t been a featured receiver on plays. That needs to change, considering Pickens’ presence is more domineering and possibly more consistent.
Some of the struggles were to be expected since Ben Roethlisberger was a more free-wheeling passer who would give any of his pass-catchers the chance to make a play at the catch point. Trubisky can be conservative to a fault at times and is more reactive than proactive.
While that’s something offensive coordinator Matt Canada may appreciate for the sake of executing the scheme, it’s not great for an offense that desperately needs playmaking to emerge. That’s on Trubisky but hurts Claypool. Fantasy managers should be concerned about Claypool’s ability to be a viable starter at any point this season if he doesn’t break out sooner than later.
I would not start Claypool this week and would even consider releasing him outright with another quiet game against the Browns.