Eleven targets for Commanders at pick No. 11: 'Sauce' Gardner


In this series, Pete Hailey will preview 11 players whom the Commanders could select with the 11th overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Next up: Cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner.

Background: Will turn 22 years old this August... 6-foot-3, 190-pound defensive back... Detroit native... Played three years at Cincinnati... Nine career interceptions and zero touchdown receptions allowed... A coach gave him the nickname "Sauce" when he was six years old, and the original version of it was actually "A1 Sauce Sweet Feet."

Biggest strength: When someone goes by "Sauce," you've got to figure they're a confident person, and that's certainly true with Gardner.

There are many, many reasons he's widely viewed as this draft's top corner prospect — including his 4.41 speed, long arms, long strides and excellent ball skills — but all of those are amplified by how self-assured Gardner is in his own game.

That approach is what fuels him as he locks down receivers as soon as they exit the line of scrimmage, beats targets at the catch point and crashes down in run support. The confidence is beyond justified, too. Just in case you missed it in the "Background" tab above, he didn't allow a touchdown while at school. 


Biggest question mark: Of all the prospects that have been evaluated in the series up to this point (all of the links to previous reports can be found below), Gardner is probably the most complete. He's not perfect, however.

Gardner likes to put his hands on his opponent, and while that can lead to lots of successful reps, it can also generate flags. In his last two years at Cincinnati, he was flagged nine total times, with seven going down as pass interference or defensive holding infractions. 

As he breaks into the NFL, that reliance on physicality could continue to result in penalties, and since pass interference is a spot foul in the pros, Gardner's missteps will be extra costly. It's something he can be coached out of with time, but early on, he may be hearing quite a few whistles from officials.

Potential fit in Washington: Before the unlimited draft experts spew insults at this website for even mentioning Gardner in a Commanders story, yes, it's understood that he'll very likely be gone well before Washington finds itself on the clock. But if there's a run on quarterbacks, receivers or some random trade that shakes up the top 10, maybe the event will unfold in a way no one saw coming and he'll be there for Ron Rivera.

In that case, he probably wouldn't be there long.

The Commanders are desperate for wide receiver help and would also likely be tempted by Kyle Hamilton, but Gardner falling to them would represent outlandish value at a position that's hugely important in the sport today. 

Along with Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III, Gardner would form a reputable trio of corners — and he'd have a shot at becoming the best of those three rather quickly.

Random and probably ultimately useless fact that's being included in this story anyway: Weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft, Gardner tweeted, "I will be CB1," and whether he was referring to his standing at corner in college as a whole or specifically claiming that he'd the first one selected in 2022, he's probably right either way. Saucy indeed.

Previous profiles: WR Treylon Burks | CB Trent McDuffie | S Kyle Hamilton | LB Devin Lloyd | WR Garrett Wilson | WR Drake London | CB Derek Stingley Jr. | WR Chris Olave