Former Cincinnati Bearcats star cornerback Ahmad Gardner wowed during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. How much so? There’s now an open question whether he should be taken over a better-known prospect in that of LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
For Gardner, it was a continuation of a dominant performance during his college days with Cincinnati. The 6-foot-2 cornerback didn’t give up a single touchdown during his three seasons with the Bearcats.
He’s seen as a potential shutdown guy and Day 1 starter heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. Below, we look at three ideal landing spots for Mr. Gardner within the top-10 picks of the draft in Vegas this coming April.
New York Giants add Ahmad Gardner to the mix
There’s a pretty good chance that Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry will either be traded or released this offseason. The 28-year-old corner is entering the final year of his contract and doesn’t fit in with the Giants’ long-term plans under defensive coordinator Don Martindale.
What we do know is that Martindale values more physical corners dating back to his days with the Baltimore Ravens. Gardner works best in press and zone coverages. He’d be a Day 1 starter for a Giants team that lacks necessary talent in the defensive backfield.
Atlanta Falcons surprise with Ahmad Gardner at 8
There seems to be renewed talk that Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot will end up selecting a quarterback in the first round to eventually replace Matt Ryan. A standout during the NFL Scouting Combine, Malik Willis could be an option here.
However, Atlanta has this sense that it can still compete for a playoff spot with Ryan under center moving forward. If so, fixing the defensive backfield has to be a primary goal. Atlanta’s defense yielded 31 passing touchdowns against 12 intereceptions a season ago. Adding Gardner to the mix would help fix that.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are set to trade wide receiver Calvin Ridley ahead of the Draft. Atlanta could use the compensation it receives in said trade to find a quarterback of the future.
Related: New York Jets seven round mock draft
New York Jets get that shutdown guy in Ahmad Gardner
Dating back to his days as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, Jets head coach Robert Saleh has relied more on no-name cornerbacks. For Saleh, it’s all about providing pressure in the front seven. Unfortunately, that did not come to fruition in his first season as the Jets head coach with this defense yielding a 103.2 passer rating in 2021.
With two top-10 picks, New York can afford to exhaust one on the defensive side of the ball. It would then use the other pick to find more talent for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson on offense. Acquiring Ahmad Gardner with the 10th pick would be an absolute steal.
Simply put, New York needs to add more talent at cornerback. Youngster Bryce Hall yielded a 106.6 rating when targeted in 2021. Meanwhile, Brandin Echols looked darn good as a rookie. Teaming him up with Gardner would set the Jets’ defensive backfield up well for the next half-decade or so.