When Vince Mayle committed to WSU in November of 2012, many Washington State fans were excited. He came to Pullman as a highly-touted junior college prospect and had the measurables to develop into a beast. That's exactly what happened as Mayle set school records during his senior season.
Learn more about the new Browns
Learn more about the new Browns
While he terrorized Pac-12 cornerbacks and challenged for the national lead in several receiving categories, there is still some question about how his skills will translate to the NFL. Is he fast enough? Is he agile enough? Is he too raw? The interesting thing about all of those questions is Mayle faced similar concerns when he came to college. Despite being ranked as a 4-star prospect, Mayle wasn't a sure thing. He wasn't even an instant contributor. It's easy to forget now, but Mayle started the 2013 season as the third-string receiver and didn't catch his first pass until Week 3. He came along very slowly initially, then WSU's game at California in 2013 happened.
Mayle broke out in a big way with four catches for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was a sign of things to come in 2014 as Mayle topped the 100-yard mark six times in 12 games, including a pair of games with more than 250 receiving yards. Yes, that's correct, Mayle racked up more than 250 yards in a game and did it twice.
Here is what we've learned watching Mayle the last two seasons.
What we love
The upside: At 6'2 and 225 pounds, Mayle was a man among boys at the college level. He simply overpowered many defensive backs who stood little chance of stopping him. Remember that breakout game against Cal? Yeah, he did this:
In the NFL, Mayle will still be a big receiver, but he won't be such a standout in the size department. That, however, doesn't limit the high upside he has. Mayle hasn't played much football, initially playing basketball in college fore deciding to give the gridiron a try. He played one year of junior college football then two years at WSU. By most standards, he's a raw project. A raw project that caught 106 balls for 1,483 yards last season. Mayle is learning on the fly and got considerably better during his two years in Pullman. There is still plenty of room for refinement. He can run better routes, use his size even better and learn the nuances of the position. He benefited from WSU drilling receiving drills like crazy in practice, but Mayle has really only scratched the surface.
He's a special teams ace: It's not everyday you see a No. 1 receiver flying down on kickoff coverage, but that's exactly what Mayle did. He's an excellent special teams player, especially on the coverage units. That should help him make an immediate impact at the NFL level while he works his way up the receiver depth chart. At a minimum, Mayle should be a special teams contributor and a solid depth receiver. While his ceiling is high, he's not a boom-or-bust player, he'll contribute.
What we're unsure about
Is he athletic enough? Mayle overpowered defenders in college, masking what is probably less than ideal quickness. He won't be able to do that as often in the NFL, so there are questions whether he is quick and agile enough to get separation in the NFL. He's not the fastest receiver either and while he has great long speed and burns defenders who underestimate his top end gear, he doesn't explode off the line. If Mayle proves he can consistently gain separation and get open on short to intermediate routes, he could be a solid starting wide receiver. If not, he may never develop beyond a guy who occasionally burns a defender deep, or bodies up a smaller corner.
Are his hands good enough? Mayle doesn't have bad hands, he just has inconsistent hands. He'll make tough catches in traffic, but drops passes he has to catch. It could simply be a matter of concentration, but for everything he did well last season -- and there was a lot -- dropped passes were by far his biggest issue.
If he had run a 4.4 40-yard dash or been faster in his shuttles, teams may have viewed Mayle as a first-round prospect. The lack of top-end quickness and speed dropped his stock, but he's still an excellent lottery ticket to hold. If he continues to develop like he did in college, Mayle could be a legit No. 2 receiver in the NFL, if not better. He's a vertical threat, tremendous after the catch, and physical. He's not Calvin Johnson, but if he continues to improve he can absolutely be a NFL impact player.
While he still has a high ceiling, that could all be thwarted if he can't separate from defenders. He needs to become a better route runner to gain separation out of his breaks. He also needs to become more consistent across the board. Better with his hands, a better blocker, be the player he flashes the ability to be on every down.
Overall, Mayle is a great value pick at the NFL level. At a minimum he'll make a 53-man roster as a special teams player and reserve wide receiver. But if everything hits right and he continues on his current trajectory, he could be a legit long-term NFL starter.