It’s a mammoth achievement to be chosen within the first spherical of the NFL Draft, a good greater one to be taken within the High 5, however once you’re on the precipice of being the very best chosen participant at your place ever, properly that’s on an entire different stage.
Cincinnati’s Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner finds himself in that spot. He’s being penciled in wherever from the No. 2 total decide to the Lions, to No. 5 to the Giants — with only a few believing he’ll fall any additional. He’ll be the very best chosen nook ever, if that second total decide holds, however even within the High 5 he would discover himself in very, very uncommon firm.
The bizarre half about evaluating cornerbacks is that once you watch them on movie you virtually by no means need to discover them. An amazing nook, a really good one, is measured in how little their identify is known as or how they simply mix into the background. They’re the silent assassins of a protection, influencing a sport from the shadows and solely observed in measure of how a lot another person is struggling. To this finish, Gardner is ideal.
There are some issues that stand out in watching Gardner play. He’s a defensive again who relishes being concerned wherever doable. Nothing is seemingly beneath him, and on working downs you’ll routinely see him shed his outdoors block and shut in on a ball provider, even when it seems his teammates have the participant below management. This type of willingness to do something extends to performs away from his man, the place his understanding and soccer IQ take over. Even when Sauce is enjoying deep man protection he’ll learn a quarterback’s eyes and have an understanding when the play isn’t going to him, breaking off his man and providing help towards one other receiver — as a rule being the primary participant to make contact.
Constructed like Richard Sherman, paired with Darrelle Revis’ knack for deleting a whole facet of the sector, it’s straightforward to see why so many groups are falling in love with Gardner’s potential — particularly contemplating he isn’t a completed product but.
One of many issues that makes Gardner stand out is that he hasn’t been topic to the top-flight SEC defensive teaching that routinely produces so many stars. Within the grand scheme of issues Cincinnati is a comparatively small college, and even with out NFL-caliber tutelage he confirmed exceptional traits. Permitting simply 6.6 yards-per-reception in 2021, based on Professional Soccer Focus, the opposite stats to his identify are merely exceptional.
- By no means allowed a landing in faculty
- Allowed 23 receptions in 320 protection snaps in 2021
- From 2019-2021 quarterbacks posted a mean passer score of 30.4 towards him
Sauce is a participant who will actually and functionally break a staff’s day. At worst he’ll completely tear up a sport plan, take away your largest weapon, and drive an offense to work round him. That’s precisely what he did towards Alabama within the Cotton Bowl, and whereas Cincinnati misplaced that sport badly — it completely wasn’t due to something Gardner did.
You may watch this eight minute video of his work towards the Crimson Tide and wrestle to search out any moments the place Gardner was out of place or burned. He solely gave up 14 yards on 4 targets in that sport, locking down Jameson Williams all day, and he’s going to be a primary spherical decide as properly. Within the highlights you may routinely see Bryce Younger make a learn to Gardner’s facet, then look away virtually immediately, realizing his man has no likelihood towards the Cincinnati DB. These are high faculty gamers we’re speaking about, they usually knew Gardner was virtually unimaginable to beat.
If Gardner is chosen within the High 5 he'll be part of a really unique group. He could be the tenth cornerback in NFL historical past to be chosen that prime, and it’s a listing affected by legendary gamers.
- 1997: Shawn Springs (third), Bryant Westbrook (fifth)
- 1998: Charles Woodson (4th)
- 2002: Quentin Jammer (fifth)
- 2003: Terrance Newman (fifth)
- 2011: Patrick Peterson (fifth)
- 2016: Jalen Ramsey (fifth)
- 2018: Denzel Ward (fifth)
- 2020: Jeff Odukah (third)
Earlier I discussed there are issues Gardner must work on, and that’s true of each rookie — however there’s loads of room for development right here. He’s a really pure and instinctual participant, however total wants extra self-discipline in the best way he performs. There have been loads of occasions Gardner gave up pointless holding penalties and cross interference, even when his ability was so nice he didn’t have to. I’m keen to chalk these as much as getting caught up within the second, somewhat than incapacity, which is an effective factor as a result of I feel the tendencies might be coached out of him.
The balancing act might be a staff preserving that pure means and ability for the sport, and never boxing him up an excessive amount of whereas they attempt to right a few of the roughness across the edges. If that may all be maintained then a staff goes to going to get a really phenomenal participant.