Chicago Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool remembers his NFL draft experience as the ultimate waiting game.
Claypool, 24, was a second-round selection in 2020 and had to hear 48 other names read out before his was called by the Pittsburgh Steelers for their first pick.
The 2023 edition opens outside of Kansas City’s Union Station on Thursday, with another crop of hopefuls poised to learn their fate – and eager to see who will be among the 31 players soon able to boast they went in the first round.
“I think every pick that got picked before me was just extra motivation,” said the Canadian, who – due to pandemic restrictions – celebrated his milestone moment with just a small group of family and friends.
“So it wasn’t that I was sitting there sulking that I wasn’t picked before one guy or another, but it just adds fuel to the fire. I think as the names come off the board you just get more and more ready for your name to be called.
“It was a super special moment and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Claypool was the 11th wide receiver drafted in a year particularly ripe with prospects at his position, including Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb who have already found success with the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys respectively.
While some might find it natural to compare members of the same class, Claypool does not find the endeavour personally helpful, insisting: “I don’t ever look at another player and be like, ‘Oh I want to have his success’. I want to have my own success.”
Claypool saw his stock rise after participating in the NFL Scouting Combine, an annual event that sees over 300 college football players invited to a week-long February camp where they are put through their paces in front of scouts, executives, coaches and other decision-makers.
The pressure on many prospects, particularly those fighting to be chosen in the seventh and final round of the draft, can be immense.
Claypool, who led his team with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final college season at Notre Dame, was likely to land somewhere – which helped alleviate some of the stress of the experience.
Speaking at the launch of the NFL’s new flag football league for girls in the UK, he said: “Obviously there’s always a little bit of pressure, but it just depends on how you look at the situation. For me it was an opportunity, and no matter what happened from the combine I was happy to be there, happy to be participating and happy to be showing off what I can do.
“And then for being drafted in the second round, if anything it might have been less pressure, because when you go super late you are afforded less mistakes and it just took the pressure off of ‘damn, I have to be perfect’, to then you have a little bit of fun.”
This draft, unusually, will have just 31 names taken off the board in the first round. An investigation into whether or not the Miami Dolphins had violated league anti-tampering policies resulted in the Florida team forfeiting their 2023 first-round pick and third-round selection next year.
Pittsburgh will have the first pick of the second round, a result of the trade that sent Claypool to Chicago in November after a promising start to his career in Pennsylvania petered out.
He added: “The playbook was completely different, the weather wasn’t the greatest. It was an adjustment but I think knowing those things we’re going to be just fine next year.
“Sometimes it can take a shorter time or a longer time, but now I think having a full off-season with the Bears and then being able to play a full season with them is going to be a really great opportunity.”