The 2022 NFL Draft is going to include some impressive underclassmen this year. Here’s the next star defender who will enter the draft in April.
There have been several underclassmen who have declared for the 2022 NFL Draft in recent weeks. Now another potential future NFL star is throwing his hat in the ring.
Ahmad Gardner is a cornerback from Cincinnati who helped the Bearcats to a remarkable 2021 season. It isn’t often that Cincinnati has players who hear their name called in the first round on the draft day, but that could change this season. Gardner officially declared for the NFL Draft on January 4th, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bearcats had one of the best defenses in college football this season as well as a quarterback in Desmond Ridder who could be off the board in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft this April. Cincinnati boasted a 13-1 record this season and made the college football playoffs before falling to Alabama.
According to their record, this was the best Bearcats team in their long history dating all the way back to 1954, and this might just be the most talented roster they’ve ever had. Ahmad Gardener is perhaps the best overall player on the team.
Where will Ahmad Gardner go in the 2022 NFL Draft?
I have seen a varying range on Ahmad Gardner when it comes to the value of his draft stock. While PFF currently has him as their fifth-ranked cornerback (27th overall), other draft outlets have had him as high as the number two overall cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s not hard to see why draft analysts are so high on him.
Despite coming from a non-Power 5 football program in the American Athletic Conference, Gardner did enough over the past three years to make himself a legitimate first-round candidate. Over the past three seasons (33 games) Gardner has earned 9 interceptions, 16 pass defenses, and 3 defensive touchdowns, via Sports Reference. In addition, he was arguably the best cornerback in the nation this year when targeted in man coverage.
Listed at 6’2” and 188 pounds, Gardner is tall and lean but with plenty of length and ample room to grow. The wiry cornerback was just 160 pounds in high school, but the talent has always been there, and he projects as a starting outside cornerback in the NFL who could play in both a zone or man scheme.
With so many quality cornerback options early in the NFL Draft, it’s hard to say where Ahmad Gardner could end up going. Of this talented class, Derek Stingly Jr. and Andrew Booth Jr. are sure to be off the board before the Bearcats cornerback, and it’s possible that players like Roger McCreary and Kaiir Elam are selected higher as well — especially if teams feel more comfortable drafting big strong cornerbacks from SEC schools.
When it’s all said and done, I think that Ahmad Gardner likely hears his name called late in the first round, but a lot can change between now and the NFL Draft. At least we know that there will be one more talented defensive back for teams to choose from this year.