When the Cincinnati Bengals re-signed Brandon Tate on April 1 to one-year deal worth $825,000, it could have easily been perceived as an April Fools joke. As the usual news cycle runs its course and as the "haters" spewed their hatred and common sense prevailed, it was understood that the Bengals -- who didn't sign any other receivers at the time and didn't bother re-signing Dane Sanzenbacher -- needed bodies on the roster, as well as special teams specialists.
Then the Bengals drafted Mario Alford in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL draft, spelling doom (D.O.O.M) for someone like Tate. Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons is approaching this weekend with borderline abuse, forcing Alford into a position as the team's primary returner during rookie minicamp. Writes Bengals.com:
Leave it to special teams coach Darrin Simmons to lay it right on the line for seventh-round pick
Mario Alford, the 5-8 West Virginia wide receiver who blew scouts away with his 4.25-second 40-yard dash.
"Like he told me, my hand is probably going to be so messed up from catching so many punts," Alford said.
He knows he's got to return both punts and kicks (he returned two kickoffs for TDs last season) if he's going to stick on the 53-man roster and he hasn't returned punts since his junior year.
Alford caught the attention of the Bengals during West Virginia's pro day, where he allegedly ran a 4.25 40-yard sprint.
"One member of the Bengals' scouting party who was there said the team was most impressed with the way he performed during a series of 40-yard sprints," wrote Coley Harvey with ESPN. "By the end of them, the Bengals convinced themselves if Alford was on the big board in the later rounds, they had to pounce on him."
According to Sports Reference, Alford caught three punts at West Virginia for -13 yards. He returned 37 kickoffs for 972 yards, with a 26.3 yard/return average and two touchdowns.