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Chicago Bears Team Preview: Chase Claypool | Fantasy Football

Chase Claypool Fantasy

The Chicago Bears have suddenly become a source of several fantasy darlings. There’s Justin Fields, the quarterback who stole our hearts with his incredible rushing ability. Cole Kmet, who is the most contentious player at Club Fantasy. Khalil Herbert the darling of all zero-running-back truthers. And then, they added D.J. Moore, the player we’ve all been petitioning to get out of Carolina.

So why in the hell would someone take a Chicago Bears article and decide to write about Chase Claypool?

Well, first off, because I’m a weirdo. But more importantly, I’m a fan of challenging prior assumptions, and boy, are there some assumptions about Chase Claypool out there. Further, there’s little edge to be had by telling you that D.J. Moore and Justin Fields are good. We could try to sort out the backfield, but let’s be honest, that’s anyone’s guess. 

Instead, I’m here to tell you whether Chase Claypool could be the late-round dart throw that wins you your league. He’s become the butt of many jokes by the fantasy community, and when everyone is moving in the same direction, it’s time to assess if there’s an edge to be had.

There are three primary points to cover when projecting Claypool’s 2023 season: his slot snap percentage, total offensive volume, and competition for touches.

Chase Claypool 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

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Chase Claypool’s Fantasy History

Remember the year 2020, when Claypool had his breakout game that caused us to spend all our FAAB? That season he finished with 62 catches, 873 yards, and nine touchdowns, putting him at WR23. The regression bug hit him in 2021, with him maintaining his receiving volume with 59 catches and 860 yards but only scoring two touchdowns. This landed him as the WR37 (NFLFastR).

And while that was bad, the bottom fell out in 2022, when he caught 46 passes for 451 yards and only one touchdown. So what happened?

Get Chase Claypool Back Outside

First off, Pittsburgh chose to increase his slot percentage significantly. Claypool lined up in the slot 225 times in 2020 and 2021 combined, per PFF. Compare that to 2022, where he lined up in the slot 275 times, 258 of which were with Pittsburgh. Yes, you read that correctly. Claypool lined up in the slot more in eight games with Pittsburgh than he did in the prior two seasons combined.

This shift took him from over 400 snaps out wide per season to just barely over 100. But apparently, Luke Getsy got the message because, in Claypool’s short time with the Chicago Bears, he only lined up in the slot 17 times. While playing less than 70% of snaps in Chicago, Claypool nearly matched his Weeks 1 through 8 Pittsburgh snaps out wide, doing so 111 times with Chicago compared to 117 in Pittsburgh.

During that span, his average depth of target (ADOT) increased from 10.5 yards with Pittsburgh to 11.9 with Chicago. And if you remove his Week 5 ADOT, where Kenny Pickett only threw three off-target bombs to Claypool, his ADOT was a measly 8.7 yards with Pittsburgh (PFF). And somehow, he was still better than George Pickens during that span, with Claypool finishing WR38 Weeks 1 through 8 compared to WR51 for Pickens.

The tape backs up that Claypool should be outside. Looking at his 2020 and 2021 performances, he benefited from getting upfield and then using shorter out routes and digs as a changeup to keep defenders off-balance. I’m in favor of Getsy’s move to get him back outside, which will raise his 2023 ceiling. 

Moving to a Low Volume Offense

Not only did Pittsburgh ruin Claypool by moving him to the slot, but my god, did this offense see a decrease in passing volume over the past three seasons? In 2020, Ben Roethlisberger made 694 pass attempts, equating to 43.4 per game. In 2021, that reduced to 649 or 38.2 per game. During the first eight weeks of 2022, Pittsburgh had 293 pass attempts between Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, coming down to 36.6 per game. 

Honestly, that pass volume could have been enough to sustain Claypool as a WR4 or Flex play with upside. Over a 17-game period, that pace would amount to 623 attempts.

But the 2022 Chicago Bears were not the 2020, 2021, or 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers. Justin Fields made 318 pass attempts all season. In other words, Pittsburgh nearly matched Fields’ season-long pass attempts in the first eight weeks. 

So, let’s just imagine for a moment Fields maintains that pace, making 386 pass attempts in 17 games. With Claypool’s typical 17% target share and 57% career catch rate, he would end with 37 catches on 66 targets. Maintaining his Chicago average of 10 yards per reception, he would finish with 370 yards. And if we’re optimistic, he gets four touchdowns. He scores 98 PPR points or 5.8 points per game in that scenario. 

Basically, he’s a tight end.

Okay, but hang with me.

Luke Getsy came from Green Bay, who took a much more balanced approach than we saw from Chicago last year. Let’s say he gets Fields up to 500 pass attempts. We’ll also assume that the Bears will give the player they traded the 33rd overall pick for a 20% target share. And we’ll blame Claypool’s 57% catch rate on playing with a combination of an aging Ben Roethlisberger, Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, and Justin Fields. Not necessarily the pinnacle of accuracy. So let’s assume a league average catch rate of 65%. Lastly, let’s bump his yards per reception to his 2020-2021 average of 14.1.

If he manages this, he will finish 2023 with 65 catches for 917 yards. Let’s say he does so while scoring six touchdowns; he would total 192.7 PPR points or 11.3 per game. That’s basically 2022 Zay Jones.

“Okay, but Austin, that’s a lot of things that have to go right.”

Yes, it is. But who else are you going to bet on with your 15th-round pick? No, seriously, that’s where his ADP is. He’s free. 

So who’s his competition?

This is where things get complicated. Last season, the top five target-getters for Chicago were Cole Kmet (69), Darnell Mooney (58), David Montgomery (39, which is more than twice Jamaal Williams for all you who act like Williams is better than Monty), Equanimeous St. Brown (38), and Dante Pettis (36). What’s also notable is that four of the five of those players also led the team in slot percentage. So it would appear that Justin Fields likes his slot receivers.

But also, who the hell else was he supposed to throw to?

More of a concern is that the Bears brought in D.J. Moore, and Darnell Mooney should be healthy again. This will certainly limit Claypool’s ceiling. However, his best season was when he was ostensibly the WR3 on his own team, behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson. So it’s possible not being the WR1 will benefit him.

Approaching Chase Claypool in Drafts

When I started researching this article, I was hoping to find the pathway for Chase Claypool to win you your league. Barring a huge step forward from Justin Fields and a D.J. Moore injury, that isn’t happening.

But Claypool could be a good late-round dart throw, as his ceiling outcome makes him a viable weekly starter. Further, he will surely be in contention for streaming options during bye weeks and a punt option in DFS. And when your options are Gus Edwards, Tyler Conklin, and Mike Gesicki, why not take the potential upside Claypool presents?

So there you have it, the least sexy article you’ll read all preseason. Hope you enjoyed this exposé on Chase Claypool.

Be sure you’re following Austin on Twitter. You can also find more of his Club Fantasy work here!

A Look Inside the Chicago Bears

Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Austin focused on Chase Claypool in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Bears written by Josh Hudson.

Justin Fields

Any time you can get 1,000 rushing yards from your quarterback, he makes for a great fantasy quarterback. With the addition of D.J. Moore and getting back a healthy Darnell Mooney, the expectation is that Fields will take a giant leap forward as a passer, thus able to top last year’s QB9 finish—draft Justin Fields.

Khalil Herbert

It’s presumed that Herbert will get the first crack at rush attempts despite the addition of D’Onta Foreman via free agency and Roschon Johnson via the draft. Herbert might be best as a change-of-pace back as his efficiency is better than his counterparts. His current ADP sees him as the first of the Bears RBs off the board, and he offers the best pass-catching upside of the three. He’s a great Zero-RB target.

D’Onta Foreman

Volume. When Foreman sees the volume — watch out. In the final 10 games of the 2022 season, Foreman had 191 rush attempts from Week 7 on and was third in the NFL in rushing yards. Give an RB that type of volume with a QB that can run — watch out. With the uncertainty over how this backfield will divvy up carries, Foreman, like Herbert, is merely a late-round dart throw with massive upside.

Roschon Johnson

Everyone loves a shiny new toy. Johnson is certainly that. He played second fiddle to Bijan Robinson at Texas and now finds himself in another backfield with plenty of competition. He’s big, strong, and has plenty of juice—yet another late-round RB target who is nothing more than a shot at upside.

D.J. Moore

We’ve asked for years to get D.J. Moore a real quarterback. Is Justin Fields that quarterback? Early training camp hype suggests he is. But for Moore to truly ascend to fantasy greatness, the offense will need to throw more (they had the 8th-lowest passing yards total by a team since 2000). In an offense that has no issue keying in on one receiver — Davante Adams regularly saw 25%+ target shares in this same system — Moore could certainly reach WR1 heights. Until then, he’s a fantasy WR2.

Darnell Mooney

Justin Fields targeted receivers in the slot a lot last season. Was that because they didn’t have a true outside threat? I guess we’ll find out this year. Like Chase Claypool, Mooney is likely a better Best Ball option until we know how the targets will shake out in this offense full of new pieces.

Cole Kmet

Pass. (And yes, that’s my analysis.)

We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles