It’s a mammoth achievement to be chosen within the first spherical of the NFL Draft, an excellent larger one to be taken within the Prime 5, however while you’re on the precipice of being the best chosen participant at your place ever, properly that’s on a complete different degree.
Cincinnati’s Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner finds himself in that spot. He’s being penciled in wherever from the No. 2 total choose to the Lions, to No. 5 to the Giants — with only a few believing he’ll fall any additional. He’ll be the best chosen nook ever, if that second total choose holds, however even within the Prime 5 he would discover himself in very, very uncommon firm.
The bizarre half about evaluating cornerbacks is that while you watch them on movie you nearly by no means need to discover them. A terrific nook, a very good one, is measured in how little their identify is named or how they only mix into the background. They’re the silent assassins of a protection, influencing a recreation 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 attainable. 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 sort 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 taking part in 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 assist 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 complete facet of the sphere, it’s simple 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, in accordance with Professional Soccer Focus, the opposite stats to his identify are merely exceptional.
- By no means allowed a landing in school
- Allowed 23 receptions in 320 protection snaps in 2021
- From 2019-2021 quarterbacks posted a mean passer ranking of 30.4 towards him
Sauce is a participant who will actually and functionally wreck a group’s day. At worst he’ll completely tear up a recreation 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 recreation 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 battle to seek out any moments the place Gardner was out of place or burned. He solely gave up 14 yards on 4 targets in that recreation, locking down Jameson Williams all day, and he’s going to be a primary spherical choose as properly. Within the highlights you may routinely see Bryce Younger make a learn to Gardner’s facet, then look away nearly immediately, realizing his man has no probability towards the Cincinnati DB. These are prime school gamers we’re speaking about, they usually knew Gardner was nearly inconceivable to beat.
If Gardner is chosen within the Prime 5 he’ll be a part of a really unique group. He could be the tenth cornerback in NFL historical past to be chosen that prime, and it’s an inventory plagued 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 progress 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 go interference, even when his ability was so nice he didn’t must. I’m keen to chalk these as much as getting caught up within the second, slightly than incapacity, which is an efficient factor as a result of I believe the tendencies will be coached out of him.
The balancing act might be a group preserving that pure capacity and ability for the sport, and never boxing him up an excessive amount of whereas they attempt to appropriate among the roughness across the edges. If that may all be maintained then a group goes to going to get a very phenomenal participant.