The Carolina Panthers bolster their secondary with the addition of cornerback Jaycee Horn, the first defender off the board.
South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers selected Horn at No. 8 overall, making him the first cornerback off the board.
Horn, the son of former wide receiver Joe Horn, has the perfect size to play cornerback in the pros, standing in at 6-1, 205 pounds with 33-inch arms. He was a three-year starter at South Carolina, earning second-team All-SEC honors in his last season.
Horn has a physical play style and matches up well in man-to-man coverage. If there’s one knock on his game, it’s that he’s not seen as a ball-hawk — he had just two interceptions last year — but the coverage skills should be more than enough to make up for a small stat sheet.
The Panthers entered the draft with several big holes on their roster coming off a 5-11 season. Left tackle is one of the team’s biggest needs, but top prospect Penei Sewell came off the board at No. 7, just before Carolina’s pick.
The Panthers would surely love to address their offensive line in this draft, but the class is deep enough that they should find some quality talent in the later rounds. They might also still be looking for a quarterback despite acquiring Sam Darnold earlier in the offseason, and one wonders if they’ll regret passing on Justin Fields years down the line.
Nevertheless, Horn is an instant upgrade for the Panthers, who had a critical need at cornerback. He should slide right in as a starter in Week 1 and has the ability to shadow the opponent’s best receiver all over the field.
He’s arguably not the best cornerback in this draft (Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II was still on the board and went to the Denver Broncos one pick later), but the Panthers addressed one of their biggest weaknesses and have the draft capital to do more over the weekend. It’s a good start for new general manager Scott Fitterer.