There is a legitimate possibility that the New York Giants have to choose between drafting Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon or Sauce Gardner out of Cincinnati with one of their first-round picks. The argument revolves around injecting more pass rush quality into the defense or finding a potential elite cornerback to pair with Adoree Jackson.
This scenario includes trading James Bradberry, which would clear about $11.7 million in salary space for the Giants, essential funding for the signing of the 2022 draft class.
Parting ways with one of their top defensive players will require a supplement, and the question is — is pass rush or elite cornerback play more important in Wink Martindale’s system?
Martindale plays a heavy man-coverage style of defense, focusing on cover-1 and blitzing heavily from multiple positions. His ability to curate a pass rush and send the house is why he’s one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the league, but his system requires dominant cornerback play to maintain that aggression.
That is probably why the Giants met with Gardner this week for dinner, further evaluating his talents and diving into his confidence.
Giants met with Sauce Gardner last night for dinner according to @AKinkhabwala
They’re definitely interested in arguably the draft’s best corner — what’re your thoughts? #NYG
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) March 24, 2022
Standing at 6’3″ and 190 pounds, Gardner is long and lanky, allowing just 6.6 yards per reception in 2021, according to PFF.
Sauce has phenomenal intangible traits, proving to be extremely confident and competitive. He projects as a great cornerback in multiple schemes, having tremendous zone coverage capabilities but great make-up speed and press coverage qualities to match in man-to-man.
The Giants can work around Gardner’s cons:
Some of Gardner’s biggest negatives are his tackling and grabby-ness at times. With a very aggressive style of coverage, Gardner can find himself latching onto receivers who beat him early, which could get him in trouble to start his career at the NFL level.
Refining his technique and footwork should alleviate those concerns over time, but pairing him with an established corner like Adoree Jackson would do him well.
NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compares Gardner to Richard Sherman, one of the best corners to ever live. Some have Derek Stingley out of LSU slightly ahead of him in terms of quality and readiness, but his style of play matches Martindale‘s aggressiveness perfectly, which is why the Giants have been so intrigued by his profile recently.