With the No. 4 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas on Thursday night, the New York Jets picked Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, adding an elite talent to a young and evolving position group.
Gardner was a three-year starter for the Bearcats. His strong play last season combined with Cincinnati's march to the College Football Playoff semifinals helped his standing not only among other cornerbacks in the draft but propelling him in a group of the best players in the entire draft.
"This was the plan all along," he told NFL Network after he was selected. "I'm extremely blessed. I'm going to go to the Jets and make sure I'm the best teammate. The Jets fans know ... they know about the Sauce. You can't have too much Sauce."
He added: "This is where I want to be, to be a New York Jet is a blessing, to be a part of something special. I visited the facility, meeting the staff. And seeing that the fans love me. Those are the main reasons I'm happy to be here. I had a feeling all along after talking to the coaches.".
This past season he logged 35 tackles with 3 interceptions, 3 sacks, and 4 breakups and led the FBS with a 26.1 QB rating when targeted. He is considered by many to be a lockdown corner in the mold of Darrelle Revis and others. Gardner (6-3, 200) has the size and the speed (4.41 in the 40 at the NFL Combine) to emerge as a fixture and No. 1 CB.
"The confidence level he plays with is tremendous," said Dane Brugler of The Athletic. "There's a lot to like about what he just put on film and the fact that teams just didn't go after him and that made it kind of difficult at first when you're evaluating him because you didn't see a lot of those one-on-one matchups. By the time you go through all the tape, it's what's not to like about this guy? Ahmad Gardner ... one of the better players in this draft. I would not be surprised if he ends up being a top five pick in this draft."
See the best images of the No. 4 overall selection by the Jets in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Gardner is the fifth Bearcat drafted by the Jets, only the third since the start of the 1967 NFL common draft, and the first since 1987. That pick was a good one —the Jets grabbed T Jason Fabini in the fourth round (111th overall) in 1987 and he started 114 games at RT and LT from '98 through 2005. The Jets also drafted LB Alex Gordon in Round 2 (42nd) in 1987
"I have a great personality," he said. "I'm one of the guys who's easy to get along, lead by example, I fit in, but I'm always willing to learn, to listen."
Gardner earned his distinctive nickname of Sauce from a youthful football coach who said he had a saucy swagger. Another explanation was his affinity for dipping sauces.
"My personal meaning is a level of confidence," Gardner said. "When I'm on and off the field, I make sure I've got the sauce. That just keeps me going. When I'm in my little calm mood, it's just me being Ahmad. The Sauce is within me, so I'm always Sauce. I have to know when to flip the switch up and turn the switch off."