The newest member of the New York Jets is already jumping into the intra-divisional rivalry with the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets selected cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner with the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday’s first round. Before his selection, the University of Cincinnati player shared a strong prediction for how well he’ll perform against All-Pro Bills receiver Stefon Diggs and the other talented receivers in the AFC East.
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Gardner Confident He Can Take on Diggs
Speaking to 5 Reasons Sports Network the day before the draft, Gardner was asked about the potential of being drafted by the Jets and stepping into an AFC East loaded with wide receiver talent. Gardner didn’t balk at the idea of having any trouble guarding Diggs, Tyreek Hill, or Jaylen Waddle.
“Most definitely,” Gardner said when asked if he could take them on.
Gardner was also asked how he would feel going into man coverage against the likes of Diggs, and remained confident in his abilities.
“Real good,” said Gardner. “I feel like I can go against the best easily.”
Gardner fills an important need for the Jets, a team in need of help in the secondary. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini noted, the Jets haven’t had a true lockdown corner since Darrelle Revis was taken in the first round in 2007 — a player who happened to be an inspiration for Gardner.
“When I think about the Jets, I think about Darrelle Revis,” Gardner said. “He used to be one of my favorite cornerbacks. I still watch him to this day (on film).”
Bills Address Secondary
The Bills took a similar strategy in Thursday’s first round, trading up to the No. 23 pick to take Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam. Like the Jets, the Bills were thin in the secondary, especially after the departure of veteran Levi Wallace in free agency and the ACL tear that is expected to wipe out at least part of Tre’Davious White’s season.
After the pick, Bills general manager Brandon Beane said he may have been willing to stay put at No. 25 if the team wasn’t so pressed to find a cornerback. Beane said Elam was the last remaining player with a first-round grade on their board, and he didn’t want to see him get away.
“We had a good grade on Kaiir and we were down to one player in the first round on our board,” Beane said, via Syracuse.com. “At that point it just made sense. Not sure what those teams would have taken but there was a lot of trade action going on too. . . . I was worried more about someone else trading in in front of us knowing that a lot of people had us pegged for potentially as a corner.”
Elam can also give the Bills a better chance to cover the speedy receivers in their division. As SI.com’s Zach Goodall noted, he was one of the fastest defensive backs in the draft.
“Standing at 6-foot-1.5, 191 pounds with 30 and 7/8-inch arms, Elam possesses the prototypical size of a press-man cornerback and great athleticism to pair, which he proved this year with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash (83rd percentile among cornerbacks) and a 37.5-inch vertical jump (70th percentile) at the NFL Combine and UF’s pro day,” Goodall wrote.