It’s Still Early, but Sauce Is the Name Most Commonly Linked to Vikings in 2022 NFL Draft

Sauce Is the Name Most Commonly Linked to Vikings in 2022 NFL Draft
Ahmad Gardner

Free agency formally begins in March. And when it does, the Minnesota Vikings will have one starting cornerback under contract, Cameron Dantzler, a soon-to-be third-year cornerback from Mississippi State.

Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander are free agents, and the brash Bashaud Breeland was waived several weeks ago.

Therefore – before the franchise even hires a new general manager and head coach – cornerback is a clear-and-present need for the 2022 Vikings. The new boss man or woman must sign a free agent or two to accompany Dantzler in 2022 or turn to the NFL draft for fortification.

Too, when the Vikings tapped the draft recently for cornerbacks, they did so a lot under Mike Zimmer — a coach known for cornerback ardor. The results were mixed. The two last keynote draft capital spent on cornerbacks wound up not quite working out. Mike Hughes was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs last summer, and Jeff Gladney was released after legal woes in Texas last spring. Both men were selected in the 1st Round of recent drafts.

Well, multiple early mock drafts in the pre-draft hype machine believe Minnesota addresses the CB tomfoolery in the 1st Round this year – again. His name is Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. ESPN’s Todd McShay even had Sauce on the brain in December with his first mock draft of the cycle. Pro Football Focus did, too.

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Houston Cougars At Cincinnati Bearcats Aac Championship Dec 4

Now, PFF is doubling up on Garnder to Minnesota. Austin Gayle from PFF authored a mock draft on Monday, sending Garnder to the Vikings like his counterpart did a couple of weeks ago. Gayle wrote on Garnder to the Vikings:

“A physical, uber-talented cover corner, Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner had one of the most impressive seasons we’ve ever seen for a college cornerback. He played 448 coverage snaps and allowed receptions on just 17-of-36 targets for 117 yards and zero touchdowns.”

Some irony exists here as the 1st Round of the draft would entail a cornerback to Minnesota. And that was usually the Zimmer stereotype. “What corner are we getting this year? – was the snide joke about Zimmer and the Vikings draft habits. All told, Minnesota has drafted four 1st-Round corners since 2013, starting with the addition of Xavier Rhodes, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts.

But, CB is a need. The Vikings will play in no postseason games during 2022 under the new head coach if they showcase trashy corners. Cameron Dantzler will need help. Sauce can be the help.

The tricky part is draft priority. If the new general manager opts to trade quarterback Kirk Cousins, a 1st-Round passer from this draft is almost required to be on the docket. Otherwise, Minnesota would roll with Kellen Mond and pray – not an ideal gig for a new general manager and head coach.

However, if Cousins remains a Viking, all options for roster construction are on the table for the 1st Round of the draft. The Vikings need an EDGE rusher, linebacker(s), and of course, a cornerback.

For now, many pundits believe Sauce Gardner will be the guy.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).