Regardless of his on-field production, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner likely has already staked his claim as the coolest player in the 2022 NFL Draft. Gardner did not last on the draft board long Thursday, with the Jets jumping at the chance to add him to their roster.
The fourth overall pick oozed swagger when walking across the stage to dap up NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with his flashy chain:
Cincinnati CB Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner arrived at the red carpet wearing a sauce bottle chain.
Next level. pic.twitter.com/u4KtBhgNzg
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) April 28, 2022
It is clear that Sauce Gardner already has the confidence and persona of a superstar, but now the question is if he has the production. The Jets appear to be building a defensive identity as a team, and Gardner will play a major role in this moving forward. Being able to stop impressive wide receiver play is essential in the AFC East, so this is a solid pick. Gardner will get his opportunity early and often with the Jets and is certain to be challenged in a way that has not yet been the case.
Predictions for Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner in rookie season with Jets
Gardner scores 2 TDs in 2022
There are some players who just tend to make things happen on the field. Sauce Gardner absolutely fits this category. He has an explosive burst and the ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands. Gardner had nine interceptions in college, with two of them resulting in a return for a touchdown.
The Jets are an organization in need of a spark and may have found the guy to provide it. Whether it be on a pick-6, a fumble recovery, or even on a punt return, expect Sauce Gardner to find pay dirt in his rookie season. Teams did not challenge Garnder often in college, but this is likely to change in the NFL. The size and ability he flashes is a good bet to translate, and the throws his way could increase the opportunity for these types of impact plays.
The trash-talking persona will grow
There are few players who have the type of persona that Gardner already possesses coming out of the draft. The Cincinnati product believes he is the best player in the draft and has not been shy about making it known. This persona grew prior to the draft when Gardner declared himself “the chosen one.” In the full quote, Gardner went on to say, “There's no way I can be a bust. That shouldn't even be an option.”
While overconfidence can backfire, Gardner has the play to back it up. In his three-year college career, Sauce Gardner did not allow a single touchdown in coverage. In 2021, he produced 40 tackles, three interceptions, three sacks, and four pass breakups.
This impressive individual effort also translated to team success. Cincinnati shined in nearly all defensive categories this past season. The Bearcats ranked first in the country in defensive pass efficiency, third in passing yards allowed, third in interceptions, and fourth in completion percentage. Expect the production of Sauce Gardner to continue at the next level with the Jets and for the notable quotes not to be far behind.
The touchdown streak will be broken
It is extremely impressive to have gone three years without allowing a touchdown in college. This streak unfortunately will not last as Gardner is sure to be targeted in a way he never has before. Even as a rookie, Gardner will likely be tasked with guarding the opposing team's primary offensive threat. The perfect streak of defense is unfortunately sure to come to an end this season.
This is not to say Gardner will not flourish as a rookie. This was a great pick by defensive-minded Jets head coach Robert Saleh. Sauce Gardner is expected to become a foundational piece of this Jets franchise moving forward. Expect his swagger and production to breathe some life into the Jets and give them a better chance at success than they have seen in years.