Why the Slide?: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Why the Slide?: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, CB/S, Florida
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Five years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Three years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

The 2019 NFL Draft was known to be a weak year at the cornerback position, but one player who was expected to go on the second day of the draft was Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. With the Gators, Gardner-Johnson played cornerback and safety before settling into a nickel corner/slot safety role as a junior. He replaced Duke Dawson in that position and had a solid final season before deciding to skip his senior year and declare early for the 2019 NFL Draft. Gardner-Johnson showed a good skill set in college and in the pre-draft workouts with size, speed, and athleticism. There was no doubt about among scouts that Gardner-Johnson had better physical tools than Dawson, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in the 2018 NFL Draft. Thus it was a surprise when Gardner-Johnson slid to the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft before being selected.

In speaking to team sources, there were a few issues that led to Gardner-Johnson sliding. The biggest reason for the fall was some teams had character concerns about Gardner-Johnson. They had reservations about him fitting into the locker room and worried about him butting heads with coaches. They have questions about how coachable Gardner-Johnson was as well. His lack of football I.Q. was concern to some, while others felt he was a corner/safety tweener who didn’t have a natural fit in coverage. Thus, those factors combined to leading to Gardner-Johnson falling in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The New Orleans Saints ended Gardner-Johnson’s fall when they moved up in the fourth round to take him. That aggressive move to land him illustrates that the Saints really wanted him and have plans for how to use him. Gardner-Johnson could be a good fit in their defense and could provide some instant competition at nickel cornerback. New Orleans declined the fifth-year option on Eli Apple, while P.J. Williams has been a disappointment. Apple, Williams, Gardner-Johnson and veteran Pat Robinson could compete for playing time next to Marshon Lattimore. Gardner-Johnson also could provide some depth at safety behind Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams. Considering the Saints have a need at corner, Gardner-Johnson should have a good opportunity earn a roster spot and have a shot at early playing time for them.

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