NFL Coach: Sauce Gardner Has 'Every Reason to Be a D--k, and He’s the Exact Opposite'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 25, 2022

Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) covers during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tulane in New Orleans, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Cincinnati star Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner drew high praise from one NFL defensive staffer ahead of the 2022 NFL draft.

A coach described Gardner as "coachable and a good teammate" to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman:

"You watched him closely in this process, in his pro day, he was so aware of his teammates, so engaged in how they were doing at pro day. You don’t always see that from those guys who are so locked in about what they’re doing. It was more, wow, he’s a guy that got every reason to be a dick, and he’s the exact opposite."

Another coach lauded Gardner for his off-field demeanor, telling Feldman the Cincinnati star "wows you in the interview."

Gardner finished his Bearcats career with 99 tackles, 16 passes defended and nine interceptions. Calling him stingy wouldn't go far enough to describe how much he blanketed opposing receivers.

Stuckey @Stuckey2

Sauce Gardner finishes his career with 1100+ snaps with 9 interceptions and 0 touchdowns allowed. Williams targeted twice all game on him. He had 1 catch for -2 yards. Amazing they didn’t end up moving him around. Kid will be a top 3 corner in NFL in 3-4 years


Sauce Gardner 🔒🔒🔒 <a href="https://t.co/q8iGDcyENk">pic.twitter.com/q8iGDcyENk</a>

Seth Walder @SethWalder

Yards per coverage snap allowed in 2021, among <a href="https://twitter.com/McShay13?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@McShay13</a>'s top 10 corners:<br><br>Ahmad Gardner 0.13<br>Kaiir Elam 0.26<br>Trent McDuffie 0.43<br>Kyler Gordon 0.56<br>Derek Stingley Jr. 0.63 (3 games)<br>Tariq Woolen 0.71<br>Andrew Booth Jr. 0.81<br>Martin Emerson 0.85<br>Coby Bryant 0.97<br>Roger McCreary 1.00

if Gardner put up that production at a Power Five school, he probably would've been a lock for the top 10 or even the top five all along. But there was some skepticism about whether he dominated against relatively inferior competition in the AAC.

The 6'3" defensive back was projected to go 14th overall to the Baltimore Ravens on Bleacher Report's post-Super Bowl mock draft. As the draft got closer and closer, he fortified his position as one of this year's best players.

ESPN's Todd McShay had him going No. 10 to the New York Jets in an early April mock, and ESPN colleague Mel Kiper Jr. listed him at No. 2 to the Detroit Lions two weeks ago.

Gardner probably wouldn't qualify as a major riser on draft boards because opinions of him were high enough to begin with. But he clearly has won over people around the NFL in the weeks leading up to the draft.