1. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
All roads lead back to here. Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner already has Lamar Jackson’s seal of approval, so now it’s a question of whether he will fall to No. 14 and whether Baltimore will pull the trigger for him.
As the No. 1 cornerback prospect in the draft, Gardner already feels like an NFL star. On top of his incredible numbers, he has the swagger and personality to make headlines — in a good way.
In three years at Cincinnati, Gardner recorded nine interceptions and 16 pass deflections while allowing just 58 receptions on 135 targets (42.9 percent completion rate) for 703 yards. Gardner didn’t allow a single touchdown in 1,120 career coverage snaps, so for those complaining about his ego, he’ll put money where his mouth is.
Ball skills, vision, football IQ, physicality, footwork, he’s got it all.
When asked at the NFL Combine about his weaknesses, Gardner replied:
"“As a cornerback, you’ve got to have a short memory. So I say that’s my only disorder that I have — short-term memory loss.”"
The other corners on this list have the potential to become consistent starters in the NFL, but Gardner is the cream of the crop, a bonafide talent who can serve as a defensive cornerstone piece for any team, making an immediate impact in Year 1 and likely many years afterward.
He’s the must-have corner of the year and he knows it.
It’d be hard to justify the Ravens trading up for Gardner, but if the Cincinnati corner is available at pick No. 14, SPRINT to the board like the team’s future depends on it.