INDIANAPOLIS — Clemson has become Wide Receiver U the last half-decade. DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant have all asserted themselves at the next level. And the Buffalo Bills, of course, mortgaged plenty of draft capital for Watkins just two years ago.
Now, there's another Tiger headed to the NFL in Charone Peake.
He didn't burst onto the scene in college quite like the three before him, but Peake does have the Bills' attention as a late-round prospect. Peake met with the team here in Indianapolis. At Clemson, he finally got his own shot as a go-to target last season, catching 50 passes for 716 yards with five touchdowns.
“Honestly, I grabbed a little bit from all of them," Peake said of those who preceded him. "Just being around them. We’ve got five receivers and I probably took something from each one of them. You have to use your resources. Those guys are great talents playing in the NFL right now. Very successful. So why not use their ability to try to help myself?”
Peake was always the one flying under the radar at Clemson. He was roommates with Watkins in college and the two have remained close to this day.
"It’s been amazing to see what he’s done in the NFL," Peake said.
Above all, Watkins showed him "how to use your speed."
"He does releases on DB’s and just pulls away immediately," Peake said. "Different ways to use your speed and how to control it, that’s what I learned from him.”
Something's certainly working at Clemson with head coach Dabo Swinney and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott. Peake believes players here are "coached different" — Swinney doesn't play favorites. Peake insists he's hard on everyone. Meanwhile, Scott was a stickler with technique, with routes being sharped.
Now, to Peake, Watkins is one of the best receivers in the game.
“Hands down. He knows how to use his speed," Peake said. "He has great hands. He’s an aggressive receiver. Very strong. So he’s capable of doing anything he wants to.”
As for his own game, Peake is counting on his "blocking mentality" making him stand out. A torn ACL in 2013 and all the other talent at his position kept Peake in the background much of his collegiate career. But when he did finally get his shot, he stood out.
He has ideal size at 6 foot 2, 209 pounds with 34-inch arms and above-average speed to beat cornerbacks deep.
Watkins emerged as one of the league's best wide receivers the last half of the 2015 season. Bryant had 765 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games last season. Hopkins' 1,521 receiving yards ranked third in the NFL.
Peake is up next.
"I don’t put any pressure on myself. I’m just how here trying to be the best Charone Peake.”