Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson 2021 Fantasy Outlooks Less Sexy with JuJu Smith-Schuster Back to Steelers - Roto Street Journal
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Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson 2021 Fantasy Outlooks Less Sexy with JuJu Smith-Schuster Back to Steelers

Can three quality WRs coexist for dependable, even high-end, fantasy stats?

Sure. From the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf,” to the 2008 Cardinals that saw Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Breaston all top 1k yards, it’s been done.

It’s also highly unlikely.

Fortunately, the Steelers trio that’s in question here actually just accomplished the rare feat. In 2020, all three of JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR16) Diontae Johnson (WR21), and rookie Chase Claypool (WR23) finished as Top-24 fantasy WRs.

Dig a little beneath that shiny surface, however, and you’ll uncover some troubling truths.

Using RotoViz’s incredible NFL Stat Explorer tool, you can see the rosy annual outputs came with some severe volatility:

Some concerning trends I notice:

  • Each member of the trio fell outside the Top-36 WRs in at least 50% of games
  • Worse, each had at least three week-ruining games where they scored under 5 FPs.
  • JuJu himself was the steadiest, though Diontae displayed the highest weekly ceiling

The lofty year-end totals also required the league’s pass-happiest attack; the Steelers’ 42.6 attempts per game were the highest by nearly 3 throws. This allowed all three WRs to see 109+ targets, with Diontae leading the way (144), followed by JuJu (128), then Claypool (109).

I’m wary of this remaining the case in 2021 for two reasons:

1) Big Ben’s arm could just fall off again like the year prior.

2) The Steelers had zero run-game presence in 2020, but typically force-feed a workhorse:

These averages amount to 394 touches per year, on average, for Tomlin’s workhorse. Last year, James Conner accounted for barely half of this with 204 touches.

Granted, as the roster stands today in mid-March, there’s no RB to threaten the WRs large slices of volume pie, not even Conner.

Still, you have to imagine the Steelers make a major backfield move on Draft Day, potentially as early as Round 1. One that could command 350+ looks. Najee Harris is such a Tomlin kind of guy.

If not, I will gladly reevaluate my outlook on all three WRs. Even still, the odds of Big Ben hurling another 42 passes per game seem slim. Plus, if Claypool takes the step I and many others expect, the target totem pole would get even more convoluted.

As such, I rank all Steelers WRs outside my Top-25, despite the high likelihood at least one, if not all three, finish within there. Last year’s weekly volatility was tough to stomach, and it will be even worse in 2021.

Check out The Wolf’s latest 2021 Fantasy Football Big Board & Rankings to see where all these players and more fall after 2021 NFL Free Agency!

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  • Founder of Roto Street Journal. Lover of workhorse backs, target hog wideouts, and Game of Thrones. Aspiring to be the "Brady" and "Leo" of the fantasy universe.

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