Vying for the top of the cornerback rankings, Ahmad Gardner has widely been viewed as a potential top pick in most 2022 NFL Mock Drafts. Gardner is a lockdown cornerback from the University of Cincinnati. And as famous as he’s become because of his nickname “Sauce,” his play on the field has made him a household name. As the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine culminates, has he maintained his top cornerback spot on recent mock drafts?
NFL Mock Draft 2022: PFN’s top consensus landing spots
It’s fair to say that Sauce has a lot to live up to with his nickname and prowess on a collegiate football field. After not allowing a touchdown in three seasons at Cincinnati, Gardner also limited receivers to no receptions longer than 13 yards in his coverage during a fabulous 2021 season.
In a recent mock draft from PFN Draft Analyst Oliver Hodgkinson, Gardner was selected 12th overall to the Minnesota Vikings. This selection saw Gardner off the board as the third cornerback drafted. Hodgkinson penned, “the selection of Ahmad Gardner in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft gives the Vikings a ball-hawking playmaker who adds a physical and explosive presence against the run and as a blitzer.”
Lead NFL Analyst Dalton Miller had Gardner a bit higher. In a mock draft published on March 2, Miller pegged Gardner to the Atlanta Falcons at pick No. 8 and the second cornerback off the board. Miller spoke of a potential scheme fit for Gardner with the Falcons. “Dean Pees ran a ton of zone coverage in 2021, and that is where Gardner will best fit in at the NFL level. He has the fluidity and athleticism to play man coverage in the pros. But his length and ball skills give him the ability to play off and see the ball more often.”
A first-round mock draft by the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator from February 28 had Gardner at a common location. The MDS had Gardner again at 12 to the Vikings. “Gardner is sticky in coverage but also presents upside in defending the edge against the run.”
Where does Ahmad’ Sauce’ Gardner land on other draft boards?
Outside of the Pro Football Network mock draft circles, Gardner also received plenty of praise. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. placed Sauce to the Falcons again at pick No. 8.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Kiper’s mock draft is the fact that Gardner was the first cornerback off the board. “Why Gardner over Derek Stingley Jr.? NFL scouts just haven’t seen Stingley playing to his 2019 level over the past two seasons. He has a high ceiling, but he played in just three games in 2021 and was so-so in 2020 … Gardner is a safer prospect at this point.”
Kiper’s colleague Todd McShay selected Gardner the highest and also CB1 in his most recent 2022 NFL Mock Draft. McShay sent Sauce to the Carolina Panthers at pick No. 6.
“So I ended up going with the best available, and that’s absolutely Gardner. I mean, he gave up all of 60 yards in 14 games last season. That’s a true shutdown cornerback. And yes, the Panthers took Jaycee Horn at No. 8 last season, but this duo would be one of the best young tandems in the league.”
Will Gardner’s draft stock change after his NFL Combine performance?
If there’s one thing that’s important to note about the Combine, it’s the fact that a prospect’s game tape should largely dominate over his workouts on the field. For Gardner, his tape on the field is just that: dominant. Gardner locked down receivers in his coverage for three seasons and looked the part against a number of top opponents during his time as a Bearcat.
Gardner measures out well and has an incredibly long frame. If anything, Gardner’s draft stock should be solidified or even improved if he were to look half as impressive as he does on tape.
Looking for a full one-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft?
With some impressive times during the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine mixed in with some less-than-impressive accuracy, we mocked the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft for fun. Here’s our mid-Combine first round of a 2022 NFL Mock Draft.