Notre Dame football

NFL Draft 2020: Why Eagles should target Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool

NFL Draft 2020: Why Eagles should target Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool

Draft a wide receiver. 

Ask any 10 Eagles fans what the franchise needs to accomplish in the NFL Draft and nine of them will likely give you some variation of that sentiment.

It’s easy to understand that mindset considering Carson Wentz and company made the playoffs last season despite having QB-turned-receiver Greg Ward Jr. as his top threat by season’s end. It was especially difficult for fans to take that Wild Card round loss to the Seahawks as they saw D.K. Metcalf, a rookie that possessed every physical characteristic you’d ever want in a football player, dominate Eagles defenders to the tune of 7 catches for 160 yards and a TD.

The Eagles passed on their chance to add the most unique athlete at receiver in last year’s draft. If they don’t want to make that mistake again this year, they’ll target Chase Claypool. 

The Notre Dame product lit up the combine with his combination of size, speed and athleticism. With a tight end’s stature at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, Claypool ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. He also put up 19 reps on the bench press while also showcasing a vertical leap over 40 inches. It was the type of performance that left experts invoking the name Calvin Johnson.

The physical tools are eye-popping with Claypool but the performance hasn’t always been. After three pedestrian seasons in South Bend, the Canadian-born receiver finally broke out in his senior season. But even then, he posted a very good, but far from spectacular, 66 catches for 1,037 yards. He did have a nose for the end zone, averaging a score a game in 2019.

It’s that dichotomy between tools and production that leaves Claypool as one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft. Some projections have him going late in the first round. Others have him falling as low as the fourth round and there’s been a ton of landing spots in between.

Would he be a reach for the Eagles with the 21st overall selection? Perhaps. Will Claypool still be there in the 2nd round at Pick 53? Flip a coin. But make no mistake, this is a player that makes a great deal of sense for the Eagles as the rare “high floor, high ceiling” selection.

Under Doug Pederson, the Eagles have placed a premium on versatility. Claypool would aid that philosophy in a number of ways. Undoubtedly, the best run blocker in this class of receivers, Pederson could deploy Claypool along with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to create matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. Or you could see him working on the inside in multiple receiver sets and blowing past linebackers in coverage.

It’s not all hearts and flowers however. There’s no doubt Claypool lacks polish. His route-running needs to improve. He struggles to avoid defenders after the catch. A player with his size and straight-line speed should be better against press coverage. Those are the areas he’ll need to go to work on as a professional.

But even if he fails to make significant gains in those facets, Claypool will bring value to a roster. As previously mentioned, he’ll help the run game with his willingness and ability to maul defensive backs on the outside. He’ll be a red zone threat due to his ability to high point the ball. Plus, he was Notre Dame’s best special teams player for each of the last two seasons, so he’ll be able to contribute immediately on all coverage and return units.

The pressure will be on Howie Roseman to take a receiver with the Eagles’ first-round pick. But if he plays this right, the Eagles’ general manager might be able to land this year’s version of D.K. Metcalf while also addressing other areas of need.

Decisions, decisions. 

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Temple sees wheels fall off at Notre Dame in Geoff Collins' debut

Temple sees wheels fall off at Notre Dame in Geoff Collins' debut

BOX SCORE

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Logan Marchi took every snap at quarterback for Temple in Saturday’s 49-16 season-opening loss at Notre Dame and ended up one of the brighter spots on a dim day for the Owls, but even those two facts netted the redshirt sophomore no assurances for next week.

And he insists he’s OK with that.

“Yeah, guys compete every day for a spot,” Marchi said. “That’s football and you gotta (stay) ready.”

On an afternoon that was disastrous for the Owls on defense and spotty on offense, Marchi was relatively steady, completing 19 of 35 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns (see observations). He had attempted just four passes in his collegiate career heading into the day.

“You guys are going to get tired of me saying it, but every single thing we do is evaluated on a week-to-week basis,” first-year Temple coach Geoff Collins said of whether Marchi earned another start in next Saturday’s home opener against Villanova.

“How you practice, how you prepare, how you perform in all your reps throughout the week (go into the decision).”

Temple suffered its most lopsided defeat since a 45-3 loss at Penn State in 2008.

The Owls’ defense was shredded to the tune of 606 yards, or 8.2 per play. The Irish, coming off a 4-8 season, had three players each rush for over 100 yards (including Josh Adams at 161 on 19 carries with two touchdowns), while redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush added another 184 yards and two TDs through the air in his first action since 2015.

On the other side, the Temple offense was far from faultless. It was limited to 330 yards, allowed Marchi to be sacked three times, committed multiple key penalties and coughed up a turnover, but still outshone the team’s defense.

“I think I played all right,” said Marchi, who did badly misfire toward open receivers a few times. “I missed a couple routine throws. … I think we gotta execute a little more on offense and help the defense out, stay on the field, give the defense some rest.”

“Logan was playing good, so we didn’t really talk about it,” Collins said of why he never made a change at QB despite a large deficit and having declared four QBs ready to play.

“He had us under control. He was composed. I thought he was changing the rhythm, the cadence, trying to keep (the defense) off balance. I was happy with that.”

Marchi compiled his numbers despite injured star receiver Ventell Bryant missing the game. Collins said that up until Friday, the Owls were holding out hope the junior might be ready.

“Ventell’s a great player, so any time he’s not on the field, it’s a lost opportunity for him, but I thought the other guys stepped up,” Marchi said. “We have a great receiving corps, got great depth at receiver.”

Sophomore do-it-all wideout Isaiah Wright gathered four catches for 79 yards to lead Temple, while senior receiver Keith Kirkwood had four for 60 and a touchdown.

“It was rewarding, exciting to finally hear the news (after) a long battle,” Marchi said of getting the starting nod over junior Frank Nutile, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio, “but those guys also did a great job and they’re ready to play. We’re all ready to play.”

Collins, meanwhile, thinks his defense is more ready than it showed Saturday.

“The beginning was bad and the wheels fell off at the end,” said Collins, who became recognized as a defensive guru during his more than two decades as a college assistant. “But the in-between was pretty good.”

Collins attributed Saturday’s porous defensive showing to a combination that included Notre Dame’s offensive weaponry, ND’s offensive line and his team’s poor angles, among other things.

“I didn’t think we tackled the way we have all preseason,” Collins said, “but we’ll get it corrected.”

Temple-Notre Dame observations: Owls hammered by Irish in Geoff Collins' debut

Temple-Notre Dame observations: Owls hammered by Irish in Geoff Collins' debut

BOX SCORE

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Geoff Collins' only previous trip to Notre Dame Stadium was 14 years ago, when the hallowed field served as the finish line for a marathon he was competing in.

Saturday's return visit may have felt even more exhausting for the new Temple head coach, as the Fighting Irish overwhelmed the Owls, 49-16, in Collins' debut.

The Irish stormed to a 28-3 lead by early in the second quarter and were never seriously threatened.

Notre Dame piled up 606 yards — 422 of it coming on the ground — to the Owls' 330 overall. Junior running back Josh Adams had 130 yards on 11 carries by the intermission, and three Irish runners wound up with over 100 yards apiece.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi got the start for Temple. Marchi was among four contenders for the job. He finished 19 of 35 through the air with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

• Penalties proved costly for the Owls during the first half. A broken-up third-down pass by Temple was wasted due to a roughing-the-quarterback call that gave Notre Dame a 1st-and-goal that translated into its 28-3 lead. Earlier, an Owls drive was stalled by a false start and then a 15-yard personal foul call on Temple helped keep alive an Irish drive that resulted in the touchdown that made the count, 14-0. The Owls, who were yellow-flagged five times before the break, will need to clean up those kinds of unforced errors quickly to beat better teams.

• While a couple Temple sophomores made bold declarations during the week leading up to the game, Notre Dame waited until all of a couple plays into the contest to begin to issue a response. Equanimeous St. Brown hauled in a 33-yard pass on ND’s first snap from scrimmage and Adams followed with a 37-yard touchdown run to put the Irish up for good a mere 33 seconds into the game. Owls cornerback Kareem Ali had said during the week that “we’re going to kick their ass,” while linebacker Shaun Bradley also predicted a blowout. Going forward, Temple might be better served by not generating obvious opposition bulletin-board material, especially if sophomores are going to be the ones generating it.

• Temple welcomes Villanova to Lincoln Financial Field next Saturday in the first renewal of the Mayor’s Cup in five years. A victory by the Owls would exactly square the series at 16-16-2. Temple’s won the last three meetings, the most recent, 41-10, in 2012 at Lincoln Financial Field. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.