Cincinnati CB ‘Sauce’ Gardner has shot to go high

One practice we’ve utilized after publishing a mock draft is to send it out to NFL scouting personnel for review. Sure, we absolutely speak with talent evaluators prior to writing the mocks. But sometimes, we’ve found, the best — and most useful — criticism comes after we’ve projected the first round.

After our most recent 2022 NFL mock draft was posted just before Christmas, we received one pretty straightforward (and amusing) response:

“You forgot the Sauce.”

That would be Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. The Cincinnati corner just missed our first-round cut last time, but the message was received loudly and clearly: That was a mistake.

Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported Tuesday that Gardner is declaring for the 2022 NFL draft, which isn’t that surprising. In three years with the Bearcats, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound corner made 99 tackles, intercepted nine passes and deflected 27 more.

But the most stunning stat of his 37-game college career? Gardner never allowed a touchdown catch, per Pro Football Focus. In fact, he allowed only 60 catches on the 138 passes targeted at his man in coverage over three years, including a paltry 131 yards in 14 games this season. 

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner should be one of the first CB prospects off the board in the 2022 NFL draft. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Even with teams often avoiding his side of the field, those are some eye-opening numbers, especially as Gardner typically shadowed opponents’ top receivers, played roughly equal snaps on each side of the field and even ventured into the slot at times. In Cincinnati’s playoff semifinal matchup with Alabama, Gardner was credited with allowing only 14 yards on three catches (four targets), including one tackle for loss on a screen vs. Bama first-round receiver Jameson Williams.

There are some…

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