With the No. 8 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers have selected South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Horn (6-1, 205) is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. He was a three-year starter at South Carolina and has the versatility to play corner in any defensive scheme and is experienced at covering the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver.
Three-year starter with tantalizing combination of size and length that is clearly effective when matched in tight man coverage. Horn can line up in any cover scheme and often traveled with the opponent’s most talented target. He plays with desired eye discipline from zone and the talent to impede release from press. He does an above-average job of closing, crowding and eliminating comfortable windows for quarterbacks to throw into, but his route anticipation is average.
Horn can play with solid technique, but he became too reliant on the college game’s tendency to allow mauling beyond five yards and that must be cleaned up moving forward. He needs more consistent effort in run support, but the traits and upside are extremely appealing despite a lack of high-end ball production. Horn offers immediate starting help with a high upside.
It’s no secret the Panthers need to upgrade their secondary, and while they signed veteran A.J. Bouye to a 2-year deal in free agency, grabbing a potential No. 1 corner in the first round is a solid strategy for the future. There’s no shortage of dominant wide receivers in the NFC South, so the Panthers need to be able to compete against those players with top-notch talent at cornerback, and Horn gives them that ability.
Horn’s versatility allows the Panthers to be creative in how they line up their secondary, and it gives Donte Jackson the ability to move into the slot where he can potentially use his speed to jump routes and rack up interceptions. Horn should be expected to be a Day 1 starter at cornerback for the Panthers, and if everything goes well he could end up as a perennial Pro Bowler, which would be a fantastic value from a first round pick.
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