May 26, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Vince Mayle (85) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (80) during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
When the Cleveland Browns selected Washington State wide receiver Vince Mayle in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, it left fans scrambling to find out who he was.
Which is befitting a player that one scout called “the best-kept secret on the West Coast prior to the draft.”
Once fans found Mayle’s info, the numbers were eye opening. Last season with the Cougars, Mayle was named second-team All-Pac-12 and was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, an award for the nation’s top wide receiver. He had a school-record 106 receptions (good for fourth in the nation) and 1,483 receiving yards (fifth best in the nation), including a pair of games with more than 250 receiving yards.
“I mean, he was built like a Saturday morning cartoon character — he was all chiseled up. He’s like one of those figurines your mom bought you as a child.” — Mike Leach, Washington State head coach
While some of his receiving numbers can be attributed to playing in head coach Mike Leach’s pass first (and second and third) offense at Washington State, they are also a testament to the hard work that Mayle put in during his two years in Pullman, Wash.
Because he didn’t focus on his academic work while in high school, Mayle had to attend community college (where he played basketball) before earning an opportunity at Washington State. The experience left him with an appreciation for what he could become, and a drive to make sure he didn’t wind up living with regrets about what could have been.
“Community college made me feel I need to get on my stuff. It was a real wake up call because we’re blessed here to have a lot of things,” Mayle said in a story last fall at ncaa.com. “Like the whole locker room is a thousand times better than the locker room I had in community college.
“There’s only two people from my high school that are still playing football. I just didn’t want to be another person roaming around the city saying, ‘I could have done this, I could have done that.’ ”
“Mimicking others on this, but Washington State WR Vince Mayle looks sharp. Plucks the ball like someone is handing it off to him.” — Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated
Just as his transition to Washington State was delayed by his time at community college, Mayle’s transition is currently slowed by a thumb injury sustained during practice for the Senior Bowl in January. Mayle recently had surgery on the thumb and expects to be ready for training camp in July, a time when he will have a real opportunity to make a difference.
As productive as the Browns’ wide receivers were at times last season, most notably Andrew Hawkins, they were a diminutive group with the 5-foot-7 Hawkins being joined at times on the field by the 5-foot-10 Travis Benjamin and the 5-foot-8 Taylor Gabriel.
This season the 6-foot-2, 224-pound Mayle can join free-agent signings Dwayne Bowe (6-foot-2, 221 pounds) and Brian Hartline (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) to give quarterback Josh McCown the type of big targets that can withstand the pounding of the AFC North Division.
Bowe has reportedly been working with Mayle in the classroom while Mayle recovers from his surgery, with the veteran teaching the rookie about how to vary his tempo on a route and the intricacies of using his frame against smaller defensive backs (who gave Mayle trouble at times in college).
“Right now it’s about mental reps, as many as I can,” Mayle told the team’s website. “I’m taking them at multiple spots. The guys that are running are taking one rep during the play. I’m taking them at three different spots in my head.”
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It’s great to see Bowe mentoring Mayle the way he is. Too often in the past, we’ve seen veterans on the Browns not be willing to help out the younger players (or too threatened by them to help out), so it’s nice to see that Bowe brings that aspect to the film room.
Once he gets on the field this summer in training camp, it will be interesting to see how smoothly Mayle makes the adjustment to being a wide receiver at the NFL level. There is no doubt that going up against one of the best secondaries in the NFL will help accelerate his learning curve, along with Bowe’s continued guidance.
While it is too much to think the Mayle will be lining up with the starters when the Browns take the field on opening weekend against the Jets, if he really is more than just a product of Leach’s offensive system, don’t be surprised to see him taking playing time away from Hartline or Bowe come the middle of the season.
When that day comes, the NFL is going to learn all about the “best-kept secret” that is Mayle.
Do you think wide receiver Vince Mayle can push his way into the starting lineup in 2015?