Detroit roots: Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner grew up in Detroit and attended Martin Luther King High School before moving on to the University of Cincinnati, where he didn't allow a touchdown reception in his coverage in three years. He's here in Indianapolis fighting to be the first cornerback off the board. Gardner was given the nickname Sauce when he was six years old by his youth football coach. Gardner said it means the level of confidence he plays with.
"The sauce is always within me," he said.
Fast backs: The running backs took part in on-field drills here at Indy, and like the receivers, they had an impressive showing in the 40-yard dash. Six backs ran official times of under 4.4 seconds. South Dakota State's Pierre Strong and Rutgers' Isaih Pacheco led the way with times of 4.37 seconds, followed by North Carolina's Ty Chandler (4.38), Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III (4.38), Florida International's D'Vonte Price (4.38) and Iowa State's Breece Hall (4.39).
View photos from media availability at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, March 4, 2022 in Indianapolis.
Injury update: LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. is one of the top cornerbacks in this class. He has a terrific blend of size, length, speed and cover skills, but there is some concern about the left foot injury he suffered this past year. He told reporters at the Combine Saturday it was a Lisfranc ligament tear to the mid foot. The medical info for teams is a big part of the evaluation for Stingley this week. Stingley said he was ahead of his rehab timeframe and expects to do all the testing at his Pro Day.
Top back(s): Walker might have solidified his standing as the top running back in this draft with that blazing 40 time (4.38), especially considering it comes on the heels of a 1,636-yard season with 18 touchdowns and a Doak Walker Award (best college RB). Also making a case is Hall, who ran 4.39 in the 40 and also had a 40-inch vertical at nearly 6-foot and 217 pounds. He had 1,472 yards and 20 touchdowns last year for Cyclones. It will be interesting to see how teams grade these two.
NFL ready: Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary made a good point Saturday about preparing to play in the NFL. He has covered a lot of really good receivers in the SEC over the years. From Justin Jefferson to Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, the SEC has produced some of the best young receiver talent the NFL has seen in the last couple draft cycles. Maybe SEC cornerbacks are a little more NFL ready considering who they have to cover week-in and week-out.
Big men running fast: It's always worth noting the big offensive linemen who show athleticism and speed at the combine. Anything under 5.0 seconds for a man at, near or above 300 pounds is moving. There were 12 offensive linemen who ran under 5.0, which was twice as many as the previous high here in Indy of six in 2013. Kentucky's Dare Rosenthal (4.88) led the way.
Thibodeaux benches: Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux led all the edge rushers in bench press reps Saturday with 27. They were a smooth 27, too.