By M. Britt Hayes
Looking for that unheralded rookie WR to draft? The one that no one is talking about but is going to blow up like Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed every time she shares a nude tweet? The guy who will be there later in the draft so you can swoop them up and look like the dynasty genius that you already know you are. Even though the rest of your league has their reservations. Well, look no further than one, Charone Peake.
Charone Peake was one of top 15 players in the country coming out of high school, and “big baller” type things were expected of him when he arrived in Clemson, South Carolina. However, injuries and and a few other playmakers that you may have heard of, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins kept his inevitable explosion at bay until his senior season.
Peake played in 14 games as a true freshman but had just 4 catches for 71 yards. Understandable with Watkins and Hopkins already cemented in at the starting roles, and competing for their leftovers with the likes of Bryant, Dwayne Allen and Andre Ellington. In his sophomore campaign, he played 13 games, catching 25 balls for 172 yards and 2 touch downs. Again, he was playing behind those same old usual suspects. With the exit of Hopkins in 2013, Peake started the first two games of the season. He reeled in 8 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD before tearing his ACL and clearing the way for Martavis Bryant as the starter opposite Sammy Watkins. He persevered and clawed his way back onto the field in 2014 after taking a medical redshirt. Peake then went on to eventually make four starts catching 12 balls for 129 yards and 2 TD’s, opposite Mike Williams who claimed the WR1 spot in his absence. Then in 2015, finally healthy and fully utilized, Peake had the primo uno year of his career racking up 50 catches for 716 yards and 5 TD’s.
As if simply being a wide receiver from Clemson isn’t enough, Peake possesses an outstanding combination of size, length and deep speed. He looks the part of a prototypical WR1 at 6’3″ and 215 lbs. He’s a big guy with some shake underneath and the ability to separate well in tight spots. Peake tends to be controlled after the catch with an ability to hit top gear quickly on screens and crossing patterns. He’s at his best when finishing contested catches against cornerbacks. He fights for the ball like a she gator protecting her youngins. He can sell the route at top speed, but has another gear saved up to overtake a defender when he hits the gas, like when Cole Trickle drops the hammer in Days of Thunder. Consequently making him a legitimate deep ball threat. He is also utilized well in protection where he can dominant a run blocker if he commits. Perhaps his reputation as a hard worker in the classroom, and that fact that scouts are enamored with his personality and character are the most important attributes to Peake. Considering that he will be considered a “project” no matter where he is drafted.
Peake’s hands are ideally small for today’s WR position, but predominantly average in comparison. Meaning they are larger than most people’s but smaller than Andre the Giant’s. He tends to delay getting into a catch ready position on short routes, and drops are a concern having spilled 5 passes for a rate of 9.1 percent. Peake has also shown a tendency to slow up on vertical runs while turning to look for the ball and losing top speed. Overall his production just never matched his talent, and his injury history is a principal concern with two knee surgeries to his credit.
If Clemson University were the Republic, and Martavis Bryant was Jango Fett, then Charone Peake is what the clones would become. There’s more than simply the superficial fast, tall and both went to Clemson comparisons. Shovel a bit deeper into Peake’s history and production, and there’s more than meets the eye to to he and Bryant. His late blossoming collegiate career and combine performance are almost identical. See for yourself. Bryant is the top line, while Peake is the bottom.
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At the Combine Peake checked all of the boxes for what makes an NFL receiver successful, as did Bryant. Yet both remained fairly anonymous early on in their university days as well as during the NFL draft hype circus. Thus, giving hope to all of the prospective day when he will become a Dynasty league commodity.
The wideouts’ likenesses are so uncanny that analysts around the NFL have speculated the possibility of Pittsburgh drafting Charone as a replacement for the oft and currently suspended Bryant. NFL media draft analyst Bucky Brooks even stated, “They need a guy who can stretch the field, I believe he is one that can do so. They do a great job of developing younger guys on the practice field.” Obviously this is simply analyst speculation. The Steelers are deep at the WR spot, and may have no interest in Peake, but the assessment is what is important here.
A highly regarded prospect coming out of high school, Peake failed to post impressive production in college. Part of this was due to 2 knee injuries, while the lack of necessary utilization was also to blame. If you have Hopkins, Watkins, and Bryant on your squad, why would you rush an injured WR back into the rotation? Peake has the size and speed of a WR1 as well as the athleticism and ability to operate on all levels of the football field. In the very least, this should warrant his consideration in a 4 round rookie draft. Besides, Charone just may very well be the biggest Rumplestiltskin of this year’s rookie crop and that Dynasty asset that solidifies your wizardry within your league.