The Gut Check No.522: Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster: Trading Places?

Matt Waldman examines Chase Claypool's sub-par fantasy performance against the Titans and explains why we might see the fantasy values of the Steelers' rookie phenom and veteran JuJu Smith-Schuster flip-flop down the stretch. 


Chase Claypool's rise to fantasy prominence during the first half of the season has been an exciting development. The No.8 receiver in non-PPR leagues and the No.15 option in per-catch formats, Claypool has earned consistent opportunities to show his wares to the NFL.

A big and fast receiver with the skill to adjust to the football at the perimeter and enough acceleration after the catch to finish plays in the end zone, Claypool averaged 19.7 yards per catch during the first six weeks of the year. The Steelers have also fed him the ball as a runner near the stripe, and two of Claypool's six touchdowns (second among receivers after six weeks) are rushing scores.

The Titans changed this trend in Week 7, limiting Claypool to one catch for minus-two yards and the only positive thing Claypool did in the game drew a defensive pass interference penalty—great for the Steelers, but bupkus for fantasy players. This performance begs the question: Is Claypool's coming-out party over or was this a brief but inconvenient interruption?

Another question on the minds of fantasy players is how this might alter expectations for JuJu Smith-Schuster moving forward. After six weeks, those that hadn't sold off their investment in Smith-Schuster were wondering if it was time to pull the trigger. Considering he was the 44th- and 40th-ranked receiver in non-PPR and PPR formats, respectively, it was looking like their patience would not be rewarded.

Sunday's Titans' matchup offered a glimmer of hope. Smith-Schuster jumped three spots in non-PPR and seven spots in PPR leagues, an indicator that if Claypool's fantasy woes are the beginning of a trend, the veteran Steeler could reap the benefits.

Is this a case of Trading Places with the fantasy values of Claypool and Smith-Schuster? After all, if Smith-Schuster earned a score on one of his red-zone targets, that added production would have easily made the vet a top-10 performer in Week 7.

After comparing and contrasting the way opponents have played Claypool, I believe the answer for GMs with Claypool on their rosters is "Sell! Sell! Sell!" and the answer for Smith-Schuster's GMs is "I can see...I have legs!"

Ok, these recommendations aren't as simple as stated. I couldn't help myself when it came to referencing movie quotes.

However, with two meetings against Baltimore, a feisty Washington defense, and capable personnel on the Buffalo and Indianapolis units, there are five weeks between now and Week 16 where we could see a Trading Places Effect with the fantasy production of Claypool and Smith-Schuster.

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