With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, we examine some of the prospects who could be of interest to the New England Patriots.
In this scouting report, we take a closer look at Jaycee Horn, a cornerback from the University of South Carolina.
Height: 6010 (1.85m)
Weight: 205lbs (93kg)
40-Yard-Dash: 4.39 seconds
Vertical Jump: 42in (1.07m)
Relative Athletic Score (RAS): 9.99/10
Man Coverage: 9.5/10 - Horn was simply ridiculous in man coverage. His ability to shadow any team's No. 1 receiver throughout a game was incredible on film and is easily his greatest strength entering the draft.
Zone Coverage: 9/10 - Despite being primarily typecast as a man-to-man corner, Horn showed excellent ability to thrive in zone coverage as well. This versatility should allow him to thrive in a variety of systems.
Press Coverage: 9.5/10 - Horn's primary alignment came in press, and he showed off excellent understanding for technique and execution in both the mental and physical aspects needed.
Off Coverage: 8.5/10 - While he didn't play out of off coverage much, Horn's versatility should make him viable in the alignment; however, Horn's skill set is unequivocally best utilized in press coverage.
Athleticism: 10/10 - Not only was Horn's film an absolute pleasure to watch, but his incredible Pro Day testing showed off a level of athleticism that could prove to yield immense upside.
Draft Grade: Top 10
Fit with the Patriots:
Jaycee Horn is good at football. Like, really really good. He is one of the best corner prospects (if not THE best) since perhaps Jalen Ramsey in 2016.
The best way to contextualize Horn as a prospect for New England Patriots fans is simple: Horn is Stephon Gilmore 2.0. Past the surface-level South Carolina Gamecocks connection, both corners are menacing in press-man coverage with a knack for physical yet intellectual play at the line and on route stems.
One of the more exciting aspects of Horn's college film was his stark improvement from 2019 to 2020. 2019 Horn was able to effectively cover receivers, but lacked a great deal of polish in areas such as eye discipline, play recognition, staying sticky on the back hip, and properly finishing plays. In 2020, Horn was able to fix most of his technical issues and couple his incredible athleticism with a more refined approach to his coverage strategies.
Horn's potential fit with the Patriots is, therefore, really straightforward. Gilmore is in a contract year and his future with the team is still nebulous; regardless of whether he stays, Horn would provide a great deal of security at a premier position in the league.
Having a corner who can consistently shadow an opposing offense's No. 1 receiver is critical to having a top defense in the modern NFL, and Horn excelled in this role in college. It's not unrealistic to project Horn to burgeon into a true All-Pro-caliber shutdown man-to-man corner should New England draft him and continue to develop him.
A prominent knock on Horn has been that his overly aggressive play style will not translate to the league due to penalties. This seems like an overblown narrative. A level of physicality still exists in cornerback play, as evidenced by Gilmore, Ramsey and other top shutdown man corners. If Horn does end up with the Patriots, he would have at least a year, if not more, to hone the subtleties in his physical play style with help from Gilmore.
As a whole, if New England does not trade up for a quarterback and does not have any weapons available at pick 15, Horn would be an absolute steal if still available.