Bearcats break Group of Five record with nine players drafted

The Cincinnati Bearcats blew past a program-record with nine players drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft this weekend. Sauce Gardner became the highest-drafted player in school history, followed by second day selections Alec Pierce, Bryan Cook, Desmond Ridder and Myjai Sanders, and third day picks Coby Bryant, Jerome Ford, Darrian Beavers and Curtis Brooks.

The previous record was six players selected in 2009.

Gardner was drafted with the 4th overall pick by the New York Jets, becoming the third first rounder in program history after a dominant career with the Bearcats. The 6’2 cornerback totaled 99 tackles, nine interceptions and 3.5 sacks in three years and was named 2021 American Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Pierce was the next player called when the Indianapolis Colts used the 53rd pick on him. After earning All-AAC honors in 2021, the 6’3 wide receiver flashed next level potential at the NFL Combine last month. He finished his career with 106 catches for 1,851 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 36 appearances.

Cook went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 62nd pick and should have an opportunity to fill a void in the secondary following Tyrann Mathieu’s departure. The former Howard transfer played in 14 games with the Bearcats last season, racking up 96 tackles, five tackles for loss and two interceptions.

Ridder was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the 74th overall pick and will compete for the starting quarterback spot as a rookie. The 6’4 senior was the second-highest signal caller selected in the draft after starting four years at Cincinnati. Despite struggling with accuracy at times, Ridder totaled 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns on a 64.9% completion rate in 2021.

He was the first former Cincinnati QB drafted since Tony Pike in 2010.

Sanders was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 100th overall pick. The 6’5 defensive end has impressive size and speed that should translate to the next level. Sanders totaled 119 tackles and 13.5 sacks throughout his career and was named to the All-AAC First Team in each of the last two years.

Four other former Cincinnati players were drafted on Saturday afternoon to wrap-up the record-breaking weekend. The Seattle Seahawks took Bryant in the fourth round, followed by Ford going to the Cleveland Browns in the next round. Beavers and Brooks were selected in the sixth round by the New York Giants and Colts, respectively.

Only Georgia (15) and LSU (10) had more players drafted than Cincinnati.

In addition to nine guys heading their names, linebacker Joel Dublanko and wide receiver Michael Young Jr were signed as undrafted free agents. Young will join teammates Pierce and Brooks in Indianapolis, while Dublanko heads to the New Orleans Saints. Offensive lineman Vincent McConnell also received an invitation to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ minicamp.