With Josh Gordon suspended for the season, and possibly longer, the Cleveland Browns are in search of the next game-changing talent at the wide receiver position.
Andrew Hawkins led the team in receiving last season, but he’s more suited in the slot. The team signed Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe to improve depth at the position, but neither are what you would call down-field threats. Terrelle Pryor is an intriguing talent with tantalizing size and athleticism, but the former quarterback is still learning the position.
And then there’s Vince Mayle. The rookie out of Washington State obviously isn’t being called upon to replace Gordon’s production, but by using a fourth-round pick on him, the Browns certainly felt he could help fill the void.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about the 24-year-old.
1. He Played Basketball in Community College
After poor grades prevented him from going to a four-year college, Mayle made his way to Shasta Community College in Redding, California. He played basketball, the sport he admits he was most interested in while growing up.
He then took a year off college to take care of his mother, who had been in an accident, before enrolling in Sierra College. Deciding that he had a better chance to make a profession out of football, he transformed into a wide receiver and tallied 61 catches, 984 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012.
Rated as the 11th best junior-college wide receiver, he racked up offers from around the country but ultimately chose Mike Leach and Washington State.
2. He Was 4th in the Country in Receptions Last Season
Mayle was an immediate impact player in Pullman, racking up five touchdowns in his first five games. By 2014, just four years after he had been playing basketball in community college, he had progressed into one of the best receivers in America.
In just 12 games in Leach’s pass-heavy offense, he tallied a ludicrous 106 catches for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. Only Amari Cooper, Justin Hardy and Kevin White had more receptions.
NFL.com gave the following scouting report as he prepared for the draft:
Mayle clearly needs work with some of the basic fundamentals for the position, but with his size and an ability to win vertically, he has a high ceiling. He might need a redshirt year before he is ready to contribute consistently.
The Browns selected him in the fourth round with the 123rd overall pick.
3. He Has Drawn Comparisons to Josh Gordon
The rookie explained why he chose Gordon as the wide receiver he first began to emulate during college:
He’s a bigger body, he catches the ball and is explosive after he catches it. That was one of our big aspects at Washington State. We had to get a lot of YAC yards and he was really good at it, so that’s something that I wanted to implement in my game, which I was able to be successful at.
He’s a great runner. He runs with his stride wide open and that’s something that I wanted to pick up my senior year — get to your full stride and trust your speed, because he trusts his speed a lot.
4. He Has Struggled With Drops in Training Camp
Mayle, who underwent surgery to repair a broken thumb in May, has noticeably been dropping the ball during practice, something he also struggled with during college.
From the Akron Beach Journal‘s Nate Ulrich:
Rookie wide receiver Vince Mayle was plagued by dropped passes much like he was during the first practice of camp. The fourth-round draft pick dropped two passes then and three this time.
Mayle’s size makes him an intriguing prospect, but by all indications, he’s still fairly raw, which makes sense considering he didn’t begin seriously playing football until a couple of years ago. It will be interesting to see if the Browns give him a year on the practice squad.
5. He Is Nicknamed ‘Little LeBron’
Mayle says he bears a resemblance to a particularly popular Cleveland-area sports figure: LeBron James.
“Ever since sixth grade, my nickname has been little LeBron,” he told Cleveland.com. “They thought I was LeBron. At one point in my life, I got it every single day.”
When he was in the sixth grade, Mayle met James at the ESPY’s. Now, he’s looking to share the spotlight in the same city.