I've covered Notre Dame football very closely over the last two years. During that time, one player on the Irish roster jumped out at me time and time again: wide receiver Chase Claypool.
The players who excel in the NFL are special, either mentally, physically, or athletically. Claypool has all three going for him.
I'm not going to sit here and cite advanced stats from the websites of experts who specialize in that sort of thing. I like the eyeball test, as it rarely lets me down. Claypool passes the eyeball test with flying colors.
First things first, he's a monster. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 240 pounds, he's going to turn a lot of heads when he walks into a room or jogs on to the field. He's built like a small tight end or defensive end.
The next thing that pops off the tape when you watch him is where he lines up — everywhere. You're going to see Claypool on both sides of the field, inside, outside, in the slot, and in the backfield. He's a multi-tool if there ever was one. Oh, and he's also a pretty decent gunner on special teams.
The next thing you'll notice is his quickness. Sure, he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but you're only going to see that when he runs deep routes — which he doesn't do all that often. It's his quickness in his route-running that — because of his size — makes you sit up and notice. This is a guy who can catch screens and turn them into a 15-yard gain in a blink. He can be useful on jet sweeps, and he gets himself open on underneath routes with moves you'd expect from smaller slot receivers, not 6-foot-4 specimens.
His football IQ appears to be as good as it gets, and he has a knack for separating and positioning himself in a way that always seems to make him open.
When I bring up Claypool to fans or even on sports talk radio shows, I'm asked to give an NFL player comparison. There are a couple of names I've kicked around, but the one I've settled on — as strange as it may seem — is Julian Edelman. Yes, I'm comparing a prototypical No. 1 coming out of college to an undersized — and often underrated — possession-type receiver who works the middle of the field as well as anyone. Before calling me crazy, pull up anyone one of the dozens of highlight videos of Claypool's career at Notre Dame.
On the surface, it's strange that I have to draw attention to what was the Irish's most dangerous offensive weapon over the last two seasons. The fact is, however, despite the love-hate relationship most people have with Notre Dame football, there is a large percentage of the football-watching population who simply don't watch the Irish play — and there are ratings that back that up.
The Combine was the first time Claypool popped up on the radars of a lot of football fans, and that's perfectly fine. NFL execs, however, are well aware of what he can do and have been for a while.
When your favorite team's general manager pulls the trigger on Chase Claypool later this month, you can rest assured that you are getting a rare talent who has the potential to upgrade an entire offense just by being present in the lineup.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.