CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

6’3” – 200 lbs.

Background:

Nickname is “Sauce.” Has been contributing since his freshman season, in which he picked up 31 tackles, intercepted three balls (including two pick-sixes), and broke up another eight throws. Had a similar season over nine games in 2020 (28 tackles, three interceptions, six breakups), and over fourteen games this past year (40 tackles, three interceptions, four breakups) before declaring for the draft.

Positives:

Has a rare combination of size and length, and has added forty pounds of bulk since being recruited weighing 160. Plays a lot of press and shuffle techniques; good mix of man and zone. Took snaps on both sides of the defense. Looks very consistent on a snap-to-snap basis. Much more coordinated than his size would indicate. Has nice footwork to match releases from press-man. Uses his hands well at the line of scrimmage, and to feel routes developing. Leverages his size to squeeze receivers to the sidelines. Hips are nice and loose. There’s enough fluidity and twitch to his game to provide tight man coverage even on routes breaking over the middle of the field. Covers a ton of ground with each stride when shuffling; should be able to prevent most receivers from getting over the top. Closes well when driving on a spot. Intercepted three passes in each year of his career; uses length well to break up passes. Willing to come up and make tackles. Does a nice job of locking out receivers and shedding to get to the ball in run support.

Negatives:

Still filling out his frame and looks thin even after bulking significantly. More tough and physical than powerful. Contact balance leaves a little bit to be desired. Didn’t get to see him backpedal much during the games reviewed. Can occasionally get caught up in congestion over the middle, or in the screen game. Heavy use of hands in coverage could potentially lead to some penalties at the next level. Can be late to get his head around when his back is turned.

Summary:

A huge cornerback who has the hips and fluidity of a smaller player, and who uses his hands very well to stick with receivers in man coverage, showing the type of snap-to-snap consistency teams look for. While he’s still filling out his frame and could stand to add additional bulk and functional strength, from a fundamental standpoint and in terms of his route recognition, he should be ready to play at the pro level sooner rather than later. Looks like he could be a first-round pick.

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