Notre Dame's Chase Claypool outruns tight end talk and boosts wide receiver draft status

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Chase Claypool finally found a way to quiet the persistent talk that he might be best suited as a tight end in the NFL.

He outran it. Big time.

In fact, the heaviest wide receiver prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft pool moved his 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame so fast Thursday in the NFL Scouting Combine’s signature event — and in Claypool’s case, its most significant — that he likely pushed his way up draft boards in a historically deep wide receiver draft class as well.

His time of 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was the seventh-fastest among the 45 wide receivers timed at the combine. Alabama's Henry Ruggs III led the way with a 4.27.

In terms of Notre Dame context, Claypool's 4.42 has been bested by only three Notre Dame players in the past decade in a combine or pro day setting. Wide receiver Will Fuller, a 2016 first-round pick, ran a 4.32 at the 2016 NFL Combine. Undrafted cornerback Darrin Walls ran a 4.39 at ND’s 2011 Pro Day, and cornerback Bennett Jackson, a sixth-round pick, ran a 4.40 at Notre Dame’s 2014 Pro Day.

Claypool’s 4.42 matched the combine performances of former Irish wide receivers Golden Tate (2010) and Miles Boykin (2019).

“I’ve been telling people for months that not only is he NOT a tight end, but he’s a lot faster than people think he is,” said draft analyst Scott Wright of “I think a lot of people thought he was going to run in the 4.6s.

“I think that’s what started the tight end conversion talk. That, and there was a lot of production left on the field that wasn’t his fault. With better quarterback play, his numbers would have been better.

“There were a lot of times that Ian Book either didn’t see him wide open or couldn’t get him the ball.”

Wright said Claypool’s performance, which included the fourth-best vertical leap in his position group (40.5 inches) and 10th-best standing broad hump (10-feet-6) likely solidified his status as a day 2 pick (rounds 2-3).

“That’s where I’ve always had him, but not a lot of other people did," Wright said. "Now even the doubters are going to have to admit, round 3 is really his floor.”

The 2020 NFL Draft is April 23-25 in Las Vegas.

Claypool is one of nine Notre Dame players who were invited to the 2020 NFL Combine, staggered by position group in terms of physical testing, interviews, medical checks and the weigh-in/measurement phase.

Wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks were the first wave of players this week to perform the physical testing.

Because of injury, some Irish players are doing the absolute minimum (defensive end Khalid Kareem, for instance) and deferring testing until Notre Dame’s April 1 Pro Day.

Tight end Cole Kmet is doing everything but the bench press in Indianapolis, and he may have solidified himself as the top tight end prospect with his performance.

His 4.7 time in the 40 was fourth-fastest among tight ends and more than fast enough to remove doubts about his athleticism.

He reinforced that with a position group-best 37-inch vertical leap and a standing broad jump of 10-foot-3, that tied for second.

“I expected Kmet to run in the mid 4.8s, and so did a lot of other people,” Wright said. “So he’s definitely a top 50 pick now and possibly someone who will go in the first round.

“His performance in the jumps also shows his explosiveness.”

Two draft long shots from Notre Dame perhaps reinforced that status Thursday.

Wide receiver Chris Finke ran 4.57 in the 40, an event in which he had to excel. Running back Tony Jones Jr., was near the bottom of the running back group in the bench press with 13 reps.

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Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool runs a drill at the NFL Scouting Combine, Thursday in Indianapolis.
Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet runs a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Thursday in Indianapolis.