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'Too good a fit for us:' Panthers snag CB Jaycee Horn with eighth pick
Physical defender has size and speed in coverage
Published Thursday, April 29, 2021 11:06 pm
by Herbert L. White

Former South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, a second-team all-SEC pick in 2020, was taken eight overall in the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Jaycee Horn’s aggressive attitude is what the Carolina Panthers need.

The former South Carolina cornerback was a surprise pick by the Panthers at eighth overall in the NFL Draft, but for a team in need of a physical presence opposite Donte Jackson, Horn fits.

“I don’t think I’ll have a problem keeping it there,” Horn said. “I know who I am. I always played with it, so I don’t ever see myself losing that edge. I feel like it’s a big part of my game.”

Horn, who is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, adds size to the secondary, where Carolina competes twice a season against some of the league’s biggest and most productive receivers.

“I just think when you look at the NFC South, the big receivers we have to face week in and week out – you have (Tampa Bay’s) Mike Evans, you have Chris Godwin you have Michael Thomas (in New Orleans), you have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, now Kyle Pitts” in Atlanta, Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “You know, it’s going to take a lot of guys who can cover and also cover really big men. You know how we feel about Donte, we’re excited about the guys we brought in last year but there’s a size matchup [equation] in the NFC South that matters, and [Horn] checks that box for us.”

Horn, who earned second-team all-SEC in 2020 despite playing only seven games in which he tallied a team-best eight passes defended and a pair of interceptions, is looking forward to proving the Panthers’ decision-makers made the correct call.

“I guess one of my strengths is being able to match up against big receivers because of my size,” he said. “I’ve also got the speed to match routes with those great receivers. I can definitely understand the thought process. I’m definitely ready to go show them and prove them right.”

Carolina could’ve drafted Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater both of whom were available with the eighth pick, but they went with the top player left on their board.

“When you watch Jaycee Horn playing on tape, it just jumps off the tape, his competitiveness, his ability to do a lot of different things,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “When you play bump-and-run corner in the SEC, your back [is turned] to the quarterback. You don’t see it, you’re not going to turn but he did have production, he did have interceptions. “We’ve seen that he can do a lot of different things and, again, fits a need for us.”

Said general manager Scott Fitterer: “We love the competitive makeup, the cover ability, just the person. He brings a lot of energy. I just think he’s a really good fit for this team. We’re excited to get him.”

The eighth pick drew interest from other teams looking to trade up – Fitterer didn’t disclose who – but no one offered a package that made it worth parting with Horn, given the Panthers’ inconsistent play at corner last year.

“We fielded calls, but there wasn’t anything that really kind of matched moving away from Jaycee, who was the top player on our board at that time,” Fitterer said. “He was just too good a fit for us. The offers didn’t match. You’re walking away from Jaycee and that’s why we didn’t do it.”



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