The 2021 NFL Draft season is finally upon us. Football, for now, is over. All eyes will turn to the offseason as 32 franchises attempt to build their teams up to championship-caliber squads.
Among those teams will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 11 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer, and the 2021 draft will serve as a catalyst to the Jaguars’ rebuild moving into the future.
As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars. Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.
In this edition, we look at one of the draft's top cornerback prospects: South Carolina cover man Jaycee Horn.
So, what does Horn bring to the table and is he a fit for the Jaguars? We attempt to answer the question below.
The son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn committed to South Carolina as a four-star prospect in the 2018 class, choosing the Gamecocks over Alabama and Tennessee.
It didn't take Horn long at all to see the field in the SEC, starting for South Carolina right away as a true freshman. Horn became the first South Carolina cornerback to start the season opener as a true freshman since Stephon Gilmore did in 2009, with Horn making 10 starts in his first season. After a year in which he recorded 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and eight pass breakups, he was named an SEC All-Freshman selection by the league’s coaches.
Horn had similar results on the field in 2019 as a sophomore, starting 12 more games and recording 40 tackles, a team-high nine pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. By this point, Horn established himself as a top cornerback in the SEC, with the only thing missing from his resume being elite ball production.
Horn started seven more games in 2020 before opting out of the season in November, though his limited exposure as a junior earned him a spot on the conference's Second-Team list. Horn was on his way to having his most productive season as well, recording 16 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups, and one tackle for loss.
What Jaycee Horn Does Well
The best word to describe Horn's play on the field is an easy one: intense. Horn is the definition of a scrapper on the football field, always competing with receivers throughout the entire phase of the play. It is because of this intense competitiveness that Horn is more often than not challenging receivers at the catch point, putting himself in good position even in the plays where he gets "beat".
Horn is physical at the line of scrimmage, but not to the point where he overextends himself. He does a good job of using his length to disrupt receivers off their release and times his punches well. He rarely gives off a clear release or lets a receiver get behind him without at least some resistance.
Where Horn is at his best is with the ball in the air. He is dominant at the catch point and uses his 6-foot-1 frame and length well to always challenge receivers and quarterbacks. His instincts for when to leap or close on the ball and his coordinator of hands, eyes, and feet are truly next level.
Add in his aggressiveness and dog-like mentality on the field and you have all the ingredients for a cornerback who can pester receivers. He puts himself in good positions with his recognition and disruption at the line and then finishes the play, which is exactly what you want out of a cornerback.
Horn is actually a lot like current Jaguars cornerback and former No. 9 overall pick CJ Henderson in the sense that he has the traits to cover any type of receiver. He is strong and physical enough to mix it up with big-bodied receivers, but he also has the change of direction skills to keep up with smaller, more shifty receivers.
Horn is very light on his feet and his click and close is evident. He can accelerate downhill or out of lateral breaks. He also has more than enough speed to run with receivers downfield. Overall he is at his best in space, though he can play like a much bigger defender.
How Jaycee Horn Would Fit With the Jaguars
If this current Jaguars staff loves Henderson, then they should be especially high on Horn as well. We have been saying this for a few months, but the similarities between their tape are just so evident. Each is a terrific athlete whose best trait is their explosive ability. Each is also at their best in man or press coverage, and each is an intensely physical player when matched up with receivers in space.
As a result, Horn's fit with the Jaguars is obvious. They are likely bringing over a lot of Baltimore's defensive principles which means a lot of man coverage from their cornerbacks, which would play directly into Horn's strengths. The Jaguars have a major need across from Henderson in their starting defense, and slotting Horn next to him would give the Jaguars an explosive duo to build their secondary around.
Horn also has some of the versatility that the Jaguars will likely value in their cornerbacks. He played multiple spots in Carolina's secondary, lining up as the boundary and slot cornerback at times. His fluidity in space and ability to stick with smaller receivers gives him inside/out versatility at the next level, improving his fit with the Jaguars even more so.
Jacksonville won't know the full extent of their secondary needs until after free agency; if they don't sign a quality starting outside cornerback such as William Jackson, Shaquil Griffin, or Ronald Darby, then the need for a player with Horn's traits will be immense.
As we mentioned above, it remains to be seen if the Jaguars should be in the cornerback market in the first round. Yes they picked a cornerback in the top-10 last season, but this is a secondary that got torched repeatedly in 2020 and realistically needs a complete overhaul. With that said, the need becomes less significant if the Jaguars make a splash in free agency.
Just in terms of simple value, getting a player like Horn pick No. 25 seems like it would be a steal. He is widely considered the third-best cornerback in this year's class and most mock drafts have him now coming off the board in the teens.
If the Jaguars have the chance to land Horn, and have the need on the roster, then it shouldn't be a tough call. He has a Pro Bowl ceiling and is arguably as good of a prospect as Henderson was last season. He needs to improve his tackling and grabbing of receivers downfield, but he has the athleticism and intensity to boost a secondary as a rookie.
For all of our 2021 NFL Draft profiles, click below.