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Report: Sauce Gardner Could Be 'Top Overall Player' in NFL Draft After Strong Combine

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMarch 6, 2022

AP Photo/AJ Mast

First, the Cincinnati Bearcats became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. Now, they may have the best overall player in the 2022 NFL draft.

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports said the "word" on cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is he could be the "top overall player" coming out of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. 

Schrager noted Gardner "interviewed incredibly well all week," while Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network shared his measurements from Sunday:

Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks

Sauce Gardner<br><br>6026<br>190<br>9 5/8 hand<br>33 1/2 arm<br>79 3/8 wing

That Gardner may be the best overall player is notable since he is in a battle to be considered the best player at his own position.

B/R's NFL Scouting Department released an updated big board after the Senior Bowl last month and listed LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. as the best cornerback and seventh-best player in the draft. Gardner checked in as the second-best cornerback and 13th-best overall player.

While Stingley landed the title as "best in man coverage," Gardner was awarded as the "most versatile" cornerback.

That versatility could help the Cincinnati product line up on the outside, in the slot or even in safety situations during his rookie campaign. He was a consensus All-American in his final collegiate season and finished with 28 tackles, four passes defended, three interceptions and three sacks despite opposing offenses going out of their way to avoid him in game plans.

He also never allowed a touchdown with the Bearcats and plans on continuing that pattern in the NFL:         

PFF @PFF

Sauce Gardner didn’t allow a TD on 1,059 coverage snaps in his career 🔒 <a href="https://t.co/aqDoKkhach">pic.twitter.com/aqDoKkhach</a>

While Cincinnati didn't consistently play top-level opponents in the American Athletic Conference, it faced Alabama and Notre Dame during Gardner's final year.

He also consistently matched up with the opponent's best wide receiver and was seemingly never overmatched.

Gardner's play on the field with Cincinnati spoke for itself, but he apparently has done nothing but help his already high stock heading into the draft with his performance at the combine.                   

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