Could Giants shift draft strategy and target cornerback in 1st round?

sauce gardner, giants

With two first-round picks in the top seven of the 2022 NFL draft, the New York Giants have many different directions they can go and player pairings they can execute. Whether it be targeting a pass rusher and offensive lineman, general manager Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll have a difficult task ahead of them.

With teams and scouts able to finally get their hands on prospects in person this year, there’s more information regarding player evaluations and profiles when compared to the 2021 draft. Names like Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Ikem Ekwonu have done themselves favors at the Combine, but the one positional group that hasn’t gotten much attention in connection with the Giants is cornerback.

Derek Stingley Jr. out of LSU and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner are considered the top two corners in this year’s draft class, but the latter of the bunch has witnessed a skyrocketing stock, making him a potential selection for Big Blue with the 5th or 7th overall pick.

Gardner is an exciting young player who is 100% committed to the game of football, protecting his body like a temple of health.

“I’ve never had one of them — at all,” the Cincinnati cornerback said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We won AAC Championships (and) they’d bring cigars out and all that, never even had a little cigar. I’m just a guy that — intrinsic motivation, you know — even just for me, I naturally just be turnt up. After we get a win, I just naturally be excited. I don’t need anything to make me feel some type of way.”

Over 14 games in 2021, Gardner allowed just 117 yards on 13 catches. At 6’3″ and 200 pounds, Gardner projects as a year one starter with elite potential. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein coined his NFL comparison as Richard Sherman. As a long and lean corner, he would fit Wink Martindale‘s defensive system perfectly, playing heavy cover 1 and aggressive man coverage.

“I love being left on an island,” Gardner said. “I don’t have to worry about anybody else but my man. … I feel like I can eliminate the best receiver on the field.”

Given the Giants will likely trade James Bradberry this off-season, they still have Adoree Jackson to lock down the number one spot, so Gardner could slot right in behind him and cover the opposing team’s number two receivers to start his career. His lankiness and speed are extremely enticing, and allowing just 6.6 yards per reception last season stands out as a thrilling metric.
Gardner has had tremendous success tantalizing top receivers, notably Alabama wide receiver Jamison Williams in the national semifinal. The problem with Gardner is he gets a bit grabby, which can draw penalties. He accrued plenty of holding and interference calls during his time with Cincinnati. Despite the penalties, Gardner firmly believes he’s the best corner and should be selected above Stingley.

“I truly believe I’m the best cornerback,” said Gardner. “I just watch a lot of film, work on my technique, study receivers, work unrequired hours and do things when nobody is watching. That all translates when the lights come up.”

Gardner would do well to add a few more pounds of muscle at the NFL level, increasing physicality but maintaining speed. An NFL weight room and diet will likely get him where he needs to be. If the Giants want to go this route, the proper development will likely blossom another premium corner they can rely on for the future. As Schoen mentioned recently, cornerback is a position that draws heavy investment in free agency, so hitting on players through the draft is essential to a team’s foundation.
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