Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 Fantasy Football Rookie Roundup

Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, and that means it’s time for us to fully turn our attention to the 2020 NFL season and fantasy football. While COVID-19 means we can’t guarantee an NFL season, our league mates want us to be on our heels, unprepared for the season. Never you fear, Football Absurdity is here to cover all of the 78 fantasy football eligible players drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. Keep in mind, most of these guys won’t get selected in your draft, but you’ll want to know these 2020 NFL draftees when your fantasy football draft comes around. We finish our tour around the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers took two fantasy football draft-eligible players that I was higher on than the fantasy football cognoscenti consensus. As such, you’ll likely find more glowing reviews of Chase Claypool and Anthony McFarland Jr than you’ll find in most other places. However, both step into crowded situations with the Steelers. How will the two fantasy football eligible Steelers fare in 2020?

Rd Pick Player Pos School
2 17 Chase Claypool WR Notre Dame
3 38 Alex Highsmith OLB Charlotte
4 18 Anthony McFarland Jr RB Maryland
4 29 Kevin Dotson OG Louisiana
6 19 Antoine Brooks Jr S Maryland
7 18 Carlos Davis DT Nebraska


Round 2, Pick 17: Chase Claypool, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame (6’4” 238 lbs)
40-yd Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone 20-yd shuttle 60-yd shuttle
4.42s (u) 19 reps 40.5 in 126.0 in

Courtesy: NFL.com, (u) = unofficial.

Depth Chart:
WR1       JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR2       James Washington
WR3       Diontae Johnson
WR4       Chase Claypool
WR5       Ryan Switzer

Claypool is a beast of a man with a massive catch radius and 4.42 speed at 6’4” 238 pounds. Those are literally Calvin Johnsonesque numbers. Prior to testing at the combine, he told teams that he would consider switching to tight end, but after kicking the doors down in testing, that went right out the window. I honestly don’t have a lot of notes on Chase Claypool because as I was watching Claypool, all I could see was a more athletic Mike Evans running around out there. That’s what the Steelers got in the second round. I’ve stayed away from the “unique size/speed/strength combo” cliché that dots every single draft profile of a big fast guy, but I’m breaking that rule for Claypool. He’s an absolute monster.


The Steelers find themselves in a fascinating position: they have too many good, young wide receivers. At this point, it’s extremely difficult to see how they will shake out in 2020. JuJu, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington will all be 24 when the season starts, and Claypool will be 22. All four of these guys went in the second or third rounds. It’s an incredibly young and deep WR corps filled with high-talent players.

I would normally say that Claypool would have trouble cracking this rotation in his freshman campaign, but I’m not so certain. Wait, yes I am. The Steelers at this point still don’t know what they have in the other three guys. They have an idea that JuJu is really great, but they still aren’t sure after a disastrous 2019 campaign. As such, I see very few targets trickling down to Claypool as the Steelers sort out this pecking order. That’s the sort of thing that normally gets sorted out in training camp, but that’s supposed to open up in a month and a half. Do you see that happening? Because I don’t.


This one is going to be all over the place. It all has to do with how the WR battle shapes up in Pittsburgh. That’s completely up in the air at this point, though I think that the incumbents get a leg up on the new guy. Then again, I love Chase Claypool so I’m taking this opportunity to go all-in on him. He’s starting opposite JuJu in week one. He’ll be a top-30 wide receiver at least in the second half of the season.

Round 4, Pick 18: Anthony McFarland Jr., Running Back, Running Back (5’8” 208 lbs)
40-yd Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone 20-yd shuttle 60-yd shuttle
4.44s (u) 29.5 in 116.0 in

Courtesy: NFL.com, (u) = unofficial.

Depth Chart:
RB1        James Conner
RB2        Anthony McFarland Jr.
RB3        Benny Snell
RB4        Jaylen Samuels

McFarland has dreads and runs just like Devonta Freeman. It’s eerie to see. He churns, fights, and pushes piles like Freeman. He sheds ankle and arm tackles with ease. These aren’t even his best traits. His vision allows him to see developing would-be tackle situations, which he then employs his great cutting ability to avoid. He struggles with pass protection and was underutilized in the passing game. His big knock is an inability to get the short-area yards. He gets stacked up at the line a lot, and cost Maryland two touchdowns against Temple because of this (also because that line is bad). He’s a powerful, frenetic runner that had his stock pushed down by a deep running back class. That, and a truly disastrous set of combine tests. I still believe in what I saw on tape from McFarland.


Anthony McFarland has just James Conner to beat out for getting the lion’s share of touches in Pittsburgh. I truly believe in James Conner’s talent, but last year showed that his injury liability should be a concern for the Steelers. After all, Conner missed three games last season and six games in 2019, the only seasons where he received any sort of real carry load. It’s a valid concern for Pittsburgh, and when it inevitably happens again, McFarland will more-than-admirably fill in for Conner.

I’m not concerned about the rest of the jokers there. Whyte is a low-level back, Snell is a plodder, and Samuels is a sat back. While the Steelers traditionally love to give the bellcow over 20 touches per game, I doubt they will do that this year with a scatback like Samuels on the roster. It likely limits everyone’s upside in the run game, not just McFarland’s.


It’s hard to say what McFarland will do this year, especially when you consider that he’s stuck behind James Conner, a role that traditionally hasn’t produced fantasy value under Mike Tomlin. He just has to wait his turn, however, he likely enters a backfield rotation in the case of a Conner injury. This tempers his upside for me, though he should produce as an RB2 in the event of a Conner injury. Keep that in mind as I throw a couple of Joe Burrows his way below.

For more 2020 NFL Draft coverage, check out these:

Arizona Cardinals Rookie Roundup
Fantasy Football Fallout: 2020 NFL Draft Round One
Football Absurdity Podcast: First Round Recap


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About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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