We spoke to Mark Stickel from Smoking Musket, SB Nation's West Virginia site, to learn more about Mario Alford, the Bengals seventh round draft pick who's being heralded for his speed and special teams abilities. Stickel believes Alford should be an ample contributor on special teams and though drops plagued him during his first year at WVU, those days should be behind him.
Cincy Jungle: What do you think of the Bengals selection of Mario Alford in the 7th round of the NFL draft?
Mark Stickel: Not knowing much about the Bengals needs, I thought it was a solid place for him to land. The Bengals have a pretty good recent history with WVU players coming out of school, both in the draft and UDFAs.
CJ: Did you think he'd get drafted sooner/later/not at all?
MS: I thought he had a chance to go a round or two earlier, but these drafts seem to be a crap shoot, especially in the later rounds.
CJ: Was Alford's speed what made him shine at West Virginia?
MS: Pretty much. Every time he caught a screen in stride there was a good chance of it going all the way. Same thing on kickoff returns, but teams eventually caught on and kicked away from him.
CJ: Do you see Alford as someone who could make an immediate impact in the NFL? Do you think he still has some learning to do?
MS: I think Alford can contribute right away on special teams. His kick returning skills make him a solid pick up anywhere. As far as his receiving, he could use some more learning, especially in the route running department, but the potential is definitely there to have a solid pro career in the NFL.
CJ: What were some of your favorite things about watching Alford?
MS: I never thought I'd see the absolute speed of his again after Tavon Austin left. Again, knowing he could take it to the house just by outrunning everyone on the field was very exciting to watch.
CJ: How about any least favorites?
MS: Mario seemed to have a bit of an issue with drops in his first season in Morgantown, but that could have been at least partially attributed to the merry go round of quarterbacks that were used that season. Kevin White had the same problem and both seemed to rectify it once the qb situation was settled.
CJ: Was he a star on the team?
MS: He was a star, but not the #1 guy. Quarterback Clint Trickett and WR Kevin White were the #1 guys. As a Niner's fan (sorry) I would compare Alford's star to John Taylor playing second fiddle to Montana and Rice. (Apologies once again for going there, not sure how deep that wound goes for you guys.)
CJ: Oh, pretty deep.
CJ: Did he have any injuries during his college days?
MS: Nothing major that I can recall. I really don't remember him missing any time at all.
CJ: Is there anything else you think Bengals fans would be interested to know about Alford?
MS: If he gets a chance on special teams, watch out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how good of a return man he is and can be.