Ahmad Gardner - CB - Cincinnati
Welcome to the rookie profile for Ahmad Gardner. ‘The Sauce’ Gardner just keeps getting better and better, he didn’t allow one touchdown in college football and in his past season he allowed 96 yards all year: that’s right 96 yards. To have a nickname ‘The Sauce’ then you must be able to back it up and it’s safe to say that he has done so, regarded as one of the best coverage cornerbacks in college football. I have Gardner ranked as CB2, just behind Derek Stingley Jr.
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 220 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.50s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
Gardner when leaving high school was only awarded a three-star recruiting grade from ESPN and as a result he wasn’t in high demand receiving just 10 offers. Gardner jumped at the chance to join Cincinnati and it proved to be a great choice, he’s just got better and better each year.
Gardner as a freshman didn’t disappoint and repaid the faith that Cincinnati put in him as he racked up 31 tackles, and 3 interceptions; converting 2 of them into touchdowns. In his sophomore year Gardner continued to build on his impressive freshman season as he put together 16 tackles, 0.5 sacks and 3 interceptions. In both seasons, Gardner earned first-team All-AAC honors.
Throughout 2021 Gardner has seen his draft stock rising on a weekly basis after another successful season with Cincinnati, he played 13 games amassing 28 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks and 3 interceptions. Gardner was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year and received Consensus All-American honors as well as being named in the first-team All-ACC for a third consecutive year. Gardner finished his collegiate career without allowing a touchdown and in his last season he only allowed 96 yards to opposing receivers.
Gardner has become one of the best press-man coverage cornerbacks in college football, having seen 84 targets in press Gardner has only given up 16 first downs and made an incredible 22 plays on the ball. I know I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but Gardner has also failed to allow a touchdown in his college career while scoring three touchdowns of his own and restricting Quarterbacks to a mere 35.3 passer rating when throwing into his coverage, purposely making a Quarterback throw away from his direction.
Gardner’s previous experience as a wide receiver gives him excellent ball skills and he’s able to locate the ball and be aggressive in the air, he stays calm when the ball is in the air and will attack well at the reception point. Gardner can switch things up due to his versatility; he excels in press man but can also play man and zone, thanks to his excellent vision and anticipation ability he’s able to play all threats with proper leverage.
Gardner’s athletic prowess combined with his height give him excellent reach when contesting the catch and he dominates against smaller receivers. Whilst he is not electric, he has a great burst of pace which allows him to recover and make up ground easily. Gardner is a willing and good tackler, overall, he wraps up well and he’s an aggressive player downhill, his explosiveness will rarely allow receivers to gain yardage after contact.
Gardner has a swag and confidence to his game that NFL scouts will be very high on, showcasing confidence in his own abilities and a personality that they can add into the locker room. He doesn’t shy away from the big-time moments and relishes the prospect of going up against the best receivers in the game.
It’s hard to find many weaknesses in Gardner’s game. It’s more a case of working on the technical areas, currently he’s viewed by many as an athletic cornerback and by improving the technical side of his game he could become one of the most feared all round corners in the NFL for years to come.
Gardner can overcommit and be too aggressive at times which means he often has to rely on his burst of pace to get him out of trouble, better players in the NFL may capitalize on this. Whilst he’s not given up a touchdown throughout his college career and he has got away with his committed and aggressive style of play, we must remember Cincinnati is a mid-major program, so he may get found out by the best players in the business. Gardner possesses all of the skills to be a superstar at the next level, but he will need to prove it against the top-level athletes.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 1
I can see Derek Stingley Jr as the only cornerback off the board in the top 10, after that the most desperate team for a cornerback are my beloved Minnesota Vikings. Since 2013 the Vikings have drafted 4 cornerbacks in the first round, embarrassingly not one of them is still in Minnesota.
With Patrick Peterson signed on a one-year deal last off-season he will become a free agent and I can’t see a renewed deal happening for the veteran and as for Cameron Dantzler I’m still not convinced that he’s a good quality starter whatsoever, therefore the cornerback position is an area that the Vikings will be addressing early as possible in this year’s draft.
If ‘the sauce’ is available, then it’d be a huge mistake for the Vikings to miss out on a generational talent who is so desperately needed. My fear is that we may see Minnesota select a QB especially if somebody like a Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis are still on the board with Kirk Cousins not tied down for too much longer.