Vikings should consider best CB in draft in April

Ahmed Gardner

The Minnesota Vikings need to bring talent into their cornerback room. This is arguably the worst position group on the list. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can improve the group in multiple ways.

The best long-term solution, unless he wants to have the same problem again next year, is to do it in the NFL Draft in April.

Most pundits view the cornerback job’s top spot in the draft as a two-man race between star LSU defenseman Derek Stingley Jr. and Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who has spent his entire college career playing for Luke Fickell, the head coach of the Bearcats.

Ahmed Gardner

Ahmad Gardner was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He attended Martin Luther King High School there. Unlike 5-star rookie Stingley, he was not a highly recruited superstar. 247sports.com ranked the 3-star rookie as the 163rd most cornerback in the nation and the 41st best player in his home nation. He had 15 offers, including colleges like Alabama A&M and Ball State, and committed to Cincinnati.

University career

The long, lean cornerback appeared in 36 games over three seasons during his college career and delivered phenomenal stats. His freshman year, “Sauce” was targeted 58 times but allowed just 23 receptions for 360 yards and three interceptions. It may be hard to believe, but during the “Covid-Season”, his second year, he managed to improve his game.

Opponents targeted the receiver, who Gardner was assigned to, 40 times. Only 17 of the targets resulted in a catch for a total gain of 221 yards. His interception number remained the same, as he again knocked out quarterbacks three times. In 2021, the standout cornerback allowed just 18 catches on 37 targets for a ridiculous 122 yards and again, three interceptions. 122 yards allowed in 14 games leads to an average of 8.7 yards allowed per game.

Lockout cornerback

In addition to the stats listed, he hasn’t allowed a touchdown in his career, despite having 1,124 cover snaps. These stats lead to incredible passer ratings. In his freshman year, opposing quarterbacks had a 39.4 passer rating when targeting Gardner. He improved the passer rating in his second year to 29.3 and again in his first year to 22.6.

Passers should probably consider not targeting the cornerback at any time. Even some bad plays result in a higher passer rating than targeting. For example, throwing the ball straight to the ground leads to a passer rating of 39.6.

Strengths

Gardner’s man coverage skills are arguably the best in his draft class. When he plays into a press man defense and gets his hands on the catcher, the game is over. It seems impossible for opponents to open up as his skills are paired with above average physical tools, as revealed by his excellent Draft Combine performance. He was measured at 6 feet and two and a half inches.

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates a sack by Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 4 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Houston Cougars at Cincinnati Bearcats Aac Championship on Dec. 4

Despite his height, “Sauce” does not lack motor skills and remains a fluid and agile athlete. His 4.41-second sprint for 40 yards showed he’s tough to beat from deep. That should always be the case at the top level of the NFL. Although his area coverage is not at the same level as his man coverage, he still plays in area defenses at a very high level. His consistency is remarkable. It rarely loses a rep and is therefore rarely targeted.

Weaknesses/concerns

Hard to find weaknesses. Gardner’s tackle is the worst part of his game, despite being an average tackle. Some pundits have a problem with the competition he faced, but when he played against Alabama in the BFC playoffs, he blocked some of the best fumbles in the country.

Draft and career prospects

My rating for him: 92.75 – top 10 picks. “Sauce” is my No. 1 cornerback in the draft. Most pundits put him ahead of the Vikings pick with their 12th pick overall. He’s a fantastic plan for new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and his defense because of his phenomenal men’s coverage. His presence will immediately improve the biggest weakness on the Vikings roster, cornerbacks. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should definitely consider trading for the Cincinnati defender. I can see him becoming an elite player in the NFL, and he’ll jump right in and help the team that picks him right away.

Vikings 2022 Free Agent Tracking

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