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Jets Country 2022 Draft Review: Sauce Gardner Talked the Talk and Walked the Walk

The self-proclaimed No. 1 talent in the 2022 NFL Draft class went on to capture NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors

Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati

Pick No. 4 (Round 1)
2022 Season: 17 games (17 starts)
Jets Country Draft Re-Grade: A

Sauce Gardner showed an abundance of confidence in his ability. 

The Cincinnati cornerback claimed to be the best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class prior to being selected by the New York Jets at No. 4 overall. 

As it turns out, general manager Joe Douglas also had plenty of confidence in Gardner and it paid dividends.

"Sauce can do everything. He can play zone, he can play man, he can win in crunch time, he can run with the fastest guys, he can defend the biggest guys. He’s elite and really fortunate that we got him at four," said Douglas last April.

Having set high expectations, Gardner lived up to the hype and quickly established himself as one of the top cover corners in the pass-happy NFL. 

Appearing unfazed by the star power at wide receiver across the league, the rookie starter was a major contributor to a defense that ranked fourth overall amongst NFL leaders. Gardner, who started all 17 regular season games, racked up 20 passes defended, 75 tackles and two interceptions in 2022. 

"Football still comes down to third down, third and four, game on the line, everyone knows you’re in man coverage, everyone knows the ball is being thrown and who’s going to win," said Douglas on the night Gardner was drafted.

Gardner routinely looked the part while battling elite pass-catchers such as Buffalo's Stefon Diggs and Miami's Tyreek Hill. 

On Buffalo's first play from scrimmage in the first meeting with the Jets last fall, Diggs cooked Sauce for a 42-yard gain. 

The Jets' CB1, however, responded well as Buffalo's top receiver caught only four of his next nine targets the rest of the way. Gardner also proceeded to pick off Bills' QB Josh Allen later on in Gang Green's eventual 20-17 triumph. 

The end result of Gardner's prime performances was the 2022 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award and a spot on the All-Pro First Team. 

Following his all-star freshman season, Gardner has been active in the media, both on television and Twitter/Instagram. He appeared as a guest during NFL Network's Combine coverage before launching a multi-pronged social media campaign to lure Aaron Rodgers to the Jets.

Days after Rodgers finally landed with Gang Green, Gardner was back on NFL Network during Draft Week.

"It feels like it was just yesterday when I was here. I'm excited to see these rooks get drafted," said Gardner looking back at 2022 during an April 27 guest appearance on "Draft Kickoff Live" from Kansas City. "It was butterflies going all through my body."


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