At the beginning of the 2019 season, Notre Dame had some question marks surrounding the offense and where production would come from.

Of course, returning talent of Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. took some pressure off Ian Book but injuries started to pile up early with the loss of Cole Kmet, Michael Young Jr, as well as Armstrong after the Louisville game on opening night.

Book was left with a ton of unproven wide receivers with limited exposure to game action. Sure, Chris Finke and Chase Claypool were returning but that was the extent of Book’s returning playmakers.

Finke delivered a few noteworthy performances, as did Javon McKinley, but it was Claypool who stole the show all season long.

Now Notre Dame will have some big shoes to fill in the wide receiver spot.

The Prototypical Notre Dame WR

Claypool at 6′ 5” is exactly the type of WR that fit the Notre Dame system. Joining a list of Notre Dame greats like Jeff Samardjiza, Michael Floyd and Maurice Stovall in the record books.

What has been most impressive is the chemistry that Claypool and Book were able to establish. He progressed from raw special-teams player to a potential mid-to-late round draft pick in the NFL draft.

In fact, I project Claypool to be a sixth round draft pick in the NFL draft.

Beside his obvious upside as a big-bodied wide receiver, he can make an immediate impact on special teams – the British Columbia native would join a short list of Canadian receivers in the NFL – Notre Dame actually sent TJ Jones, also a Canadian born player, to the Detroit Lions back in 2014.

A bit of a Canadian connection may be brewing!

Chasing Greatness

Claypool certainly made his presence felt this year as Notre Dame’s leading receiver. This year he averaged 74.25 yards and one touchdown per contest this year.

While the total yardage did not overwhelm, he had some monster games including a four touchdown outing against Navy – the second receiver in Notre Dame history to catch four touchdowns in a single game, tying Stovall back in 2005.

His 12 touchdown catches this season ties Floyd and Samardzjia as sixth all-time in a single season. Claypool ends his Notre Dame career with 18 total touchdown receptions, tying Stovall for seventh all-time.

Next Man Up

Currently, the expectation will be to return speedy Braden Lenzy, shifty slot receiver Lawrence Keys III and Kevin Austin Jr – assuming he is able to progress through the off the field obstacles.

In addition to these three receivers, Notre Dame welcomes the first five star receiver since Floyd – St. Louis standout Jordan Johnson.

Whether it be Book returning for his fifth year, or Phil Jurkovec taking over – the Irish will have proven safety nets in Kmet and Tommy Tremble as tight end options.

And while Claypool’s absence will be felt, the Irish should be able to continue their upward trend.