South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn enters the 2021 NFL draft as a highly respected defensive back with top-tier genetics. The son of former Pro Bowl wide receiver, Joe Horn, Jaycee brings an appealing physical makeup and above-average athletic ability to the early rounds of the 2021 draft.
Horn’s career as a Gamecock began following a four-star rating as a high school recruit out of Alpharetta High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. The recipient of 32 scholarship offers, Horn chose South Carolina over powerhouse programs like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State. He was considered a top-20 corner in his recruiting class and ranked 145th on the ESPN300 list his senior season.
Horn’s impact at South Carolina was immediate. He made 10 starts as a true freshman and was an SEC All-Freshman selection by the league’s coaches. He finished his first season with 45 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and two sacks. He had eight pass breakups as well. He remained in the starting lineup as a sophomore and finished the 2019 season with 40 tackles and a team-best nine pass breakups. This past season, Horn started seven games and finished the year with 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, and the first two interceptions of his college career.
Physically, Horn has the kind of frame that defensive coordinators covet. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Horn has both the length and bulk to get physical with the NFL’s X-receivers. His long limbs are an asset that he uses to his advantage, especially when he’s in recovery mode and needs to fully extend to get back into the receiver’s catch radius and make a play on the ball.
Athletically, Horn possesses average straight-line speed and agility. He isn’t a ‘slow’ defensive back, but he doesn’t have the kind of juice that is usually found in elite corners. He plays with hesitation in the run game too, which makes his average athleticism look a tick slower than it really is. He’s the kind of prospect who will test faster than he plays.
Horn is a quality press corner who will win his fair share of reps because of his physicality and sticky coverage off the snap. But if he whiffs at the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t have the necessary athleticism to consistently recover. His long arms help him when he’s in revival mode and he should have similar levels of success as a pro. But his limitations in off coverage and in zone concepts are causes for concern. He isn’t the most instinctive cornerback — which shows up in his lack of interception totals — and at times looks confused in his coverage assignments. He’s a physical cover-guy who needs to be in that role to have a long and successful career.
Horn is a liability against the run. He doesn’t play with the ‘want-to’ that’s needed to come downhill and make a stop. He’s often arriving late to the pile and does little to contribute to his teammates’ effort to bring the play to an end. In fact, he sometimes looks disinterested when a run play is called. Of additional concern is his inability to work himself free from wide receivers tasked with blocking him.
Overall, Horn plays a premium position and possesses the kind of physical traits that are hard to find. As a result, he’ll be selected higher than his tape suggests he should be because of the expectation that he’ll be coached up in the NFL. And maybe he will be. The fact that his father was a successful pro for a long time is a big plus and there’s no denying that Horn looks every bit the part of a premier corner on the hoof. But there are just too many holes in his game to justify a first-round pick. Instead, Horn is a good value selection somewhere in the middle portion of Day 2.
GRADE: 7.4 (late-second round)