Sauce Gardner Drafted by Jets: New York's Updated Depth Chart After Round 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 29, 2022

CINCINNATI, OHIO - NOVEMBER 20: Ahmad Gardner #1 of the Cincinnati Bearcats lines up for a play in the third quarter against the SMU Mustangs at Nippert Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The New York Jets selected Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the fourth pick in the 2022 NFL draft on Thursday.

Gardner was widely considered one of the best corners in this year's class after finishing 2021 with 40 tackles, five tackles for loss, three interceptions and four pass breakups.

Here is where he fits into his new team's depth chart:

DE: Carl Lawson, Jacob Martin

DT: Quinnen Williams, Nathan Shepherd

DT: Sheldon Rankins, Solomon Thomas, Jonathan Marshall

DE: John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff

OLB: Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood

MLB: C.J. Mosley, Hamsah Nasirildeen

OLB: Jamien Sherwood

CB: Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, Brandin Echols

CB: Bryce Hall, Isaiah Dunn

Slot CB: Michael Carter II, Javelin Guidry

FS: Ashtyn Davis, Elijah Riley

SS: Jordan Whitehead, Lamarcus Joyner

The Bearcats allowed the second-fewest passing yards (169.2 per game) and ranked first in opponent quarterback rating (103.4). Gardner was a big reason for the secondary's dominance, and he figures to make an immediate impact with the Jets.

The 6'3" defensive back was the No. 11 overall player and second-best cornerback behind LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. on the Bleacher Report NFL Scouting Department's big board.

B/R scout Cory Giddings evaluated Gardner and compared him to three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman, who enjoyed a run of four to five years before his 2017 Achilles rupture when he was the NFL's best cornerback.

Giddings wrote Gardner can defend effectively in zone and man coverage and possesses "excellent ball skills":

"Ahmad Gardner is a rare cornerback who possesses excellent length and athleticism. He is able to excel in man coverage, where he plays with good technique to get hands on receivers and the speed to carry them downfield. ...

"Gardner is able to switch things up and play in zone coverages. With his vision and anticipation, he is able to play all threats with the proper leverage."

Because he played in the AAC, the Cincinnati star wasn't regularly tested in the same way Stingley, Washington's Trent McDuffie or Florida's Kaiir Elam were on a weekly basis against Power Five opponents.

Still, the fact that he didn't allow a single touchdown in pass coverage is the kind of stat that almost sounds farcical.


Sauce Gardner is UNREAL 🔒 <a href="https://t.co/F80aENF7he">pic.twitter.com/F80aENF7he</a>

Last November, The Athletic's Justin Williams mockingly wrote how Gardner "just might be the most bored player in college football" because opposing teams were avoiding him so frequently. That's why his individual numbers may not appear too impressive upon first view.

"I just take every play one at a time," Gardner told Williams. "Whenever I get bored and zone out, that’s when the ball will get thrown at me. So I have to stay focused every play."

Gardner isn't afraid to get physical with wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he has the frame to match up favorably with most wideouts. In general, he checks all of the boxes teams need to see before they take a cornerback this early.

New York allowed the third-most passing yards (259.4 per game) in 2021, so the secondary was obviously an area for the team to target.

Even though the Jets already signed D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead, selecting a cornerback in the first round figured to remain in play for general manager Joe Douglas. Gardner adds to a new-look defense for 2022.