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2021 NFL Draft grade: Context for where we rated Jaycee Horn

The Panthers drafted a top corner and I’m trying to be happy about it.

South Carolina v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

We gave you the quick grades on each of the Carolina Panthers 11 draft picks on Sunday, but didn’t offer a ton of justification. Each of these guys is an intriguing pick in their own right and they each deserve more than 30 words about why the Panthers picked them and why we judged them the way we did. Also, this way you can roast me in the comments for each individual grade instead of having to do it all at once. Today, we’re talking about the Panthers No. 8 overall pick, Jaycee Horn.

Round 1, Pick No. 8 (No. 8 overall): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Horn was quietly linked to the Panthers in the predraft process, but many fans assumed that he would only be in the conversation if the team traded back. It turned out the Panthers had an extremely high opinion of him and were happy to get him at their original pick (or just unhappy with their options to trade back).

He is an elite athlete with top tier press man coverage skills. For a team that couldn’t get off the field on third downs last year, Horn was a clear case of best player available (per general manager Scott Fitterer’s rankings) meeting a need.

Grade: B-
I still would have preferred Justin Fields, even if I understand and accept the logic behind Horn in a world where they are betting on Darnold. I’m in the crowd that thinks Fields could be a special player. If you’re the Panthers, however, and you think that Sam Darnold has as good of a shot at being The Guy as anybody else available at No. 8 then cornerback and offensive tackle are easily your top priorities. Taking Horn here with Penei Sewell off of the board is an A+ pick with their beliefs. He has the potential to immediately turn one of the team’s biggest holes into a bona fide strength.

I’m giving them a B- because, while I don’t share their beliefs, I’m trying really hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. Fitterer and Rhule are a new partnership who seem to be confidently on the same page. Already these Panthers look different than Marty Hurney’s version and different is good enough for now. That’s the credit that Tepper has earned by bringing in new minds and it’s a credit that is extended to those minds. It will be burned up, however, if Horn flames out (less likely) or Fields clearly out plays Darnold in the coming years (more likely).