STRENGTHS - Blessed with excellent size and strength, Gardner looks the part of the big receivers that NFL teams are looking for. Very quick footed with good agility, he can change directions fast to defeat press and release quickly off the LOS. Despite his 40 time, Gardner accelerates to full speed fast and plays faster than his timed speed. While dominating at Sierra College he consistently showed the speed to get separation on deep routes and made it look easy out running angles to make big plays running after the catch. Not only does he have the speed to make big plays, but he has the quickness, agility and balance to change directions fast to make tacklers miss and has the size, strength and balance to run through arm/grab tackles to consistently gain yards after contact. Natural hands, great height, long arms and excellent ball skills enable Gardner to consistently make tough catches. His ability to track the ball to make the tough over-the-shoulder catch is outstanding and he does not get fazed by having to catch ball with a defender on his back trying to break up the pass. Unlike many college receivers, Gardner gives an outstanding effort as a blocker and has the strength to dominate man and eliminates him from the play.
WEAKNESSES - A dominant small school receiver who ran by everyone and looked very fast on film, Gardner did not run well at the Nevada Pro Day which raises concerns about his true speed as junior college film is tough to fairly evaluate a player's speed. Not only did he run slow at the Nevada Pro Day, but his overall workout was poor, which is a major concern because that was his big chance to prove to NFL teams that he had taken care of his business off the field to be fully prepared for his big day. It is clear on film that his routes are raw and undisciplined. When his bad routes are combined with his playing at a JC and then not being able to transfer to any of the major programs that recruited him due to academics, I have concerns about his ability handle the complexities of NFL offenses. He has also made mistakes off the field, which raise further questions about his decision making and ability to stay focused on what is important.
SUMMARY - Being alerted to Gardner late in the draft process, I was immediately impressed when I put on the Sierra College Film as he was a dominant player who made big plays one after another. For a big receiver, it was impressive how quickly he could change directions to make tacklers miss and cut back plays against the grain without ever losing balance or getting out of control. The hardest part to gauge is Gardner's speed because on film he looks like a legit low 4.4's guy who can out-run anyone and make big plays at the NFL level. However, after running slow and working out badly at his Pro Day it is hard to feel confident in the speed I saw on film. Overall, Gardner is one of the most intriguing physical talents available in the Draft, but due to questions about playing speed, ability to handle the mental side of the game and decision making off the field I doubt highly that he will be drafted. If he can overcome all of the concerns, he has the physical talent to become a good starting possession receiver in the NFL, but that is definitely not something that can be counted on which is why he cannot be selected before the sixth/seventh rounds, if he is drafted at all.