Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati: 2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates after a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (not pictured) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship game at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK
Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates after a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (not pictured) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship game at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK /

Ahmad Gardner was a stalwart at cornerback during his three year stint at Cincinnati. Take a look at his scouting report for the 2022 NFL Draft.


Name: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner

School: Cincinnati

Position: Cornerback

DOB: August 31, 2000 (21 years old)

Height*: 6’3”

Weight*: 200 pounds



Gardner is a Detroit, Michigan native. He was a standout football player for the highly-respected Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School. He played both wide receiver and cornerback during his time suiting up for the Crusaders. This led to Gardner receiving three stars via ESPN and a First-Team All-State selection as a senior.

Despite his three-star status, Gardner was underwhelmed by the amount of attention he received during the recruiting process. Indiana, Kentucky, and Iowa State were the biggest schools to show interest in the lanky cornerback. Gardner never felt particularly wanted by any school, that is until the Bearcats came calling.

Luke Fickell and company won Gardner over by promising him immediate playing time and hammering home how much they believed in his potential going forward. He finally found a place where he was wanted and wasted no time making himself feel at home. As a true freshman he played in 13 games (6 starts), claiming a spot on the 2019 First-Team All-AAC. Gardner was picked on frequently but never wavered, recording 11 pass break ups and not allowing a single touchdown all season.

Gardner followed up a great first season with an equally as good sophomore campaign. He was selected to the First-Team All-ACC for a second time in as many seasons and allowed the third lowest passer rating in coverage in the nation. You can count on two hands the number of first downs that Gardner allowed during the 2020 season.

In 2021, teams quit throwing his way as much. Gardner being the ball hawk that he is still found a way to record three interceptions, bringing his career total up to nine. He improved his tackling a great deal in his final season, and even became a legitimate threat to bring the quarterback down by tallying three sacks.

He finished his college career with an incredible game versus Alabama in the College Football Playoff. With every draft scout in the country tuned in, Gardner locked down half of the field and recorded an extremely impressive tackle of Jameson Williams behind the line of scrimmage. This play showcased Gardner’s elite closing speed and vastly improved tackling technique.

When Gardner arrived on campus, he believed in Cincinnati as much as they believed in him. Three years later as Sauce prepares to depart for the 2022 NFL Draft, he leaves the program in a much better place than he found it. Sauce will always be one of the pioneers of Cincinnati football, helping launch them into the national discussion while gaining respect from fans all over.

The “Sauce Gardner CB1” debates are ramping up, let’s check out what has folks calling Sauce the best cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft.

2022 NFL Draft Profile: Ahmad Gardner

Best Traits

Man Coverage: Gardner was born to be a lockdown defender on the outside. He has a knack for sticking to his man downfield, making it look like he is the one running the route instead. He uses his strong hands to assert dominance in press coverage. He also does well manipulating receivers in the midst of their route, using his savviness and experience to knock them off their mark and ruin the timing of the entire play. He recorded three interceptions in each season on campus and allowed zero touchdowns in man coverage over the course of his career.

Agility: Gardner is not particularly fast. There is a real chance that he runs in the 4.6 range at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. On the surface, this is concerning due to the sheer volume of receivers that post better times in the 40-yard dash. This shows exactly how flawed it is to solely use 40 times. While it is true that Gardner is not the fastest, he is among the most agile for his size. He does well flipping his hips in coverage and using his instincts to close the gap on ball carriers. What Gardner lacks in top end speed, he makes up for in his ability to close ground quickly.

Frame: Because of his history as a wide receiver in high school, Gardner boasts a rare profile for a lockdown cornerback. He stands at 6’3 and somewhere near 200 pounds. This results in Gardner being able to deal with the prototypical number one receivers on the outside. He has a strong base and does well to always stay on his toes, even as he is backpedaling. Furthermore, he has shown improvement each season in run support, showing a better understanding of fighting off blocks and putting himself in position to make a play.

Mentality: I hope you find someone some day that believes in you as much as Sauce Gardner believes in Sauce Gardner. He remembers being slept on as a recruit coming out of Michigan and carries that chip on his shoulder everywhere he goes. When you watch Gardner out on an island with a wide receiver, it is reminiscent of an old Western standoff. Gardner is never intimidated and lives for the moments where he can take the opposing teams best player out of the game.

Experience: Gardner was a three-year starter for the Bearcats, accumulating a total of 28 starts in that span. He has developed incredible instincts for the position and oozes confidence every time he steps foot on the gridiron. He takes assignments personally and approaches the game in a very old school way. Gardner is smart and knows that his best will often beat the opponents best, leading to his overflow of confidence.

Needs Improvement 

Tackling: Gardner improved a great deal in 2021 as a tackler, but still has a ways to go before it catches up to his other traits. He still doesn’t execute proper technique a majority of the time, instead flying around like it is backyard football. While this is appealing to the masses, and makes for a fun highlight reel, it is actually a detriment to his team at times. On a handful of plays, Gardner is guilty of over pursuing the ball carrier and taking bad angles because of it. Against AAC competition, you can get away with this. However, teams will exploit it often if he doesn’t clean up the fundamentals.

Speed: As stated in the agility section, Gardner is not a blazer. He will likely finish with a 40 time outside of the top ten for his position. Like I mentioned before, this is not a death nail to his career but it is something that must be brought up. While a lot of the time he will be able to make up for it in coverage, there are potential matchups that could really cause mismatches for Gardner. He was never overwhelmed at Cincinnati and he always will believe he is the best player on the field but outside of his game versus Alabama, he doesn’t have much tape against the freak athletes that litter NFL rosters.

Final Thoughts

Ahmad Gardner is not only my favorite cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft, he is my favorite prospect regardless of position. He has an incredibly catchy nickname and an equally fun style. His confidence is admirable and makes it easy to root for him. He plays with a swagger that is required for a position that has you in one-on-one scenarios frequently. He was near perfect in coverage across three seasons of college football, so the production backs up the talk. I expect Gardner to go in the top half of round one in the 2022 NFL Draft and there is a real chance he supplants Derek Stingley Jr. as the top cornerback in the class, even if he doesn’t win the NFL Combine.