Pro comparisons and analysis team adjustments for top cornerback prospects
PRO COMPARISON: Richard Sherman, free agent
Richard Sherman…with a longer wingspan and superior straight-line speed.
Sauce stands 6 feet 2 3/4, but his wingspan is 79 3/8 inches. This wingspan is about 4.5 inches greater than its height, which is a significant difference. (Think of 2 inches as a difference that scouts would generally excite about a prospect’s “long arms”.) Gardner’s arm length is 33 1/2 inches. To compare, back at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, Sherman was 6-foot-3 with 32-inch arms. Why so much emphasis on weapons? Well, long arms can be more disruptive for wide exits from the line of scrimmage at the point of capture. And if a corner is burned or out of position in terms of hip alignment, the long arms can catch a split second of coverage. It sounds small, but it can be the difference between a pass breakup and a hold (or penalty). Gardner had three interceptions in each of those three Cincinnati seasons, impressive (and surprisingly consistent) ball production for a cornerback who was tested less and less as his star rose. Even more remarkable: According to Pro Football Focus, Sauce hasn’t given up a single touchdown pass in his college career. More than 1,000 cover shots and zero TDs allowed!
While Sherman ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine, Gardner checked in at a speedy 4.41. Additionally, Computer Vision shows that Gardner’s speed and ability to turn his hips to accommodate routes ranks in the 99th percentile of all corners that are at least 6-2 in my sample of 20 seasons. Sherman ranks in the 93rd percentile in this same metric. Antonio Cromartie — another multiple-time Pro Bowler — also appears as a comp for Gardner, despite only ranking in the 80th percentile in game speed when turning his hips.
TEAM CUP: New York Jets
The Jets, who hold a pair of top-10 picks (Nos. 4 and 10), just ranked 30th in passing yards allowed (259.4) and 31st in passer rating allowed (103.2 ) last season. Did I mention the D also ranked dead last in total yards and total points allowed? Robert Saleh needs more difference makers on this side of the ball. The sauce does the job perfectly. PFF’s college rankings date back to 2014, and in that time they’ve recorded just 13 instances of an FBS corner allowing a passer rating below 40 for a season. Gardner explains Three of them. His career college passer rating allowed: a miniscule 31.8, which led the FBS from 2019-2021 (min. 100 targets).