Ahmad Gardner
Ahmad Gardner or Sauce Gardner has the chance to prove himself as the top cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft. (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

Ahmad Gardner AKA Sauce Gardner has everything you could want in a cornerback. The Cincinnatti junior possesses ideal athleticism, size, and skills. Despite Derek Stingely Jr. being the top corner prospect for many in the 2022 NFL Draft, I have Gardner as CB1. I think Stingely has inconsistent coverage concerns on top of the injuries. Whereas Sauce Gardner is constantly around the ball, making plays wherever he can.

As a true freshman, Ahamad Gardner proved his worth immediately. In his first season, he had 3 picks, 6 passes defended, 2 touchdowns, and 31 tackles. Ever since then, he hasn’t looked back. He grew into his 6-foot-3 200-pound frame and is a playmaker on all levels of the field. The respect he has earned through the course of his career has been obvious. As a freshman, Gardner was targeted the 15th most in college football. Comparing that number to this season where he sees just 2.7 targets per game, opposing offenses are trying to avoid him at all costs.

In coverage, Gardner abuses his length, allowing him to break up passes in man and zone coverage. The way he breaks on the ball and turns them into interceptions or deflections is special. In his three-year career, Gardner hasn’t allowed a single touchdown. Not one. It’s been a spectacle to see how crucial he is to this dominant Bearcat defense. Towards the back half of this season, quarterbacks stopped throwing his way so much that Cincy started sending Gardner on blitzes. And he’s been racking up the sacks because of this.

A common concern pertaining to defensive backs coming out of college is their ability to tackle. Ahmad Gardner is not lacking in that area. He is a difference-maker in the run game and has been exceptional blitzing the quarterback. His 3 sack season and 94 total tackles can attribute to that. All in all, Sauce is a true athlete. There is more to come, however, for the young prospect.

Ahmad Gardner will face the toughest test of his career against Alabama in the CFP. He’ll be tasked with guarding speedster and top Crimson Tide receiver, Jameson Williams. If Sauce Gardner can prove his speed and technique by keeping up with Williams, I think he will cement himself as the top corner and potential top 10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.