Every year, there’s at least one draftee who shoots up boards after the NCAA season concludes. This year, one such player is Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. The former Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback could well be the first defensive back selected later this month.
Long, lean and linear, Gardner’s physical and football growth are on full display when comparing his 2019 tape to 2021. He’s highly competitive with a confidence level that will be labeled as cocky by some evaluators. “Sauce” uses length and hand activity to impose his will on the release and stall the route on the tarmac. Staying connected to the route is a priority, which leads to grabbing when he feels it slipping away but that can be corrected by improving his footwork and trusting his technique. His movements lack fluidity, but he’s urgent and aggravating in man-to-man, which could become a deterrent for NFL quarterbacks scanning to his side of the field if he can avoid a big spike in penalties as he adjusts to NFL officiating. Gardner has the traits and demeanor to become a highly effective CB1 within his first couple of seasons.
After a standout NFL Combine performance, Gardner met with Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith. Apparently the two got along so well that Gardner is now visiting the Texans.
Sauce Gardner visits Texans on Tuesday, per league source. https://t.co/w9CEJ78DoO— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 5, 2022
Usually, taking a cornerback high in the draft is a move you make if you’re just one or two players away from contention. The Texans are currently about 50 players away. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t snatch up Sauce if the opportunity arises.
Sauce Gardner showed us what he could do in his #NFLCombine workout. @iamSauceGardner | @GoBearcatsFB pic.twitter.com/qOoRdx7KHB— NFL (@NFL) March 7, 2022
Sweet footwork from Sauce @iamSauceGardner | @GoBearcatsFB— NFL (@NFL) March 6, 2022
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/YMmDXLLjyO
Sauce Gardner’s models his game after some of the best to do it— PFF (@PFF) March 16, 2022
Presented by @superdraftdfs pic.twitter.com/nXbYO3gkZr
How many Pro Bowls are in Sauce Gardner's future? @iamsaucegardner | @CRO31 | @movethesticks pic.twitter.com/7YEeeYH925— NFL (@NFL) April 1, 2022
The Texans have needed a top-notch cornerback for far too long. Sauce checks the boxes, would present an instant upgrade over any other option currently on the Houston roster, and would give Nick Caserio a keystone to build on in the secondary.
Will Caserio call Sauce’s name in the draft? We’ll find out in 23 short days.