40 Time: 4.50
Overview: With his long arms, loose hips and surprisingly quick feet to slather receivers at the catch-point, earned the stellar nickname "Sauce" during his playing career - one that looks to live on in the NFL. A program legend, earning first-team all-conference honors each of his three seasons, culminating with back to back All-America honors. Didn't allow a single catch in the red zone during the 2021 regular season, surrendering just 117 total yards in 11 games.
Strengths: Rare height, agility and acceleration for the position. Lined up in aggressive tight man coverage on the majority of his snaps, accompanying top receivers. Corrals receivers at the line of scrimmage with his length, limiting the passing lanes on short and intermediate routes. Shows impressive understanding of football angles, maintaining excellent position between the receiver and quarterback on crossing routes.
Weaknesses: More twitch than most corners his size but does allow slivers of sunshine to savvy route-runners with quick changes of direction. These "limitations" in coverage, as well as just average tackling ability, make him best suited outside in a heavy man defense, rather than inside or for a team that plays a lot of zone. Willing to mix it up but is more of a grab and drag down tackler than the striker his imposing frame might suggest, with some lunges and misses on tape.
Pro Comp: Richard Sherman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Rare size, ball skills and flashy nickname, there will be plenty of comparisons to the flamboyant Sherman throughout the pre-draft process. To be clear, Gardner has a lot of work to do as a tackler before earning the comparison.