Despite more than a dozen free-agent signings over the past week, the Patriots still have questions to answer about their roster.
We already know about the Pats’ potential interest in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Another position that’s seemingly in flux is cornerback, where Stephon Gilmore is unlikely to want to play for his $7 million base salary and J.C. Jackson is a restricted free agent with a second-round tender.
The Pats could decide to sure up that position in the draft, and Wednesday they did their homework on one top cornerback that could be available in the first round at No. 15 -- South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn.
The Pats were among the teams that sent a defensive backs coach to the Gamecocks’ pro day, according to ESPN NFL Draft analyst Jim Nagy.
Nagy reported that Horn, ranked as the No. 2 cornerback in this draft by the NFL Draft Bible, impressed with 40-yard dash times of 4.37 and 4.39 seconds.
There’s no doubt Horn has confidence in his ability to thrive in the NFL.
“I feel I’m the best defensive player in the draft,” Horn said Wednesday, according to Pro Football Talk.
Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, measured at 6 feet tall, 205 pounds. Last season he opted out of the Gamecocks’ season after seven games because of COVID-19 concerns within his family (he had an aunt pass away from the virus) but had two interceptions and six pass breakups, and he was voted by the coaches to the All-SEC Second Team.
Here’s what NFL Draft Bible has to say.
“During his Gamecock career, Horn has had a variety of reps both inside at nickel and on the outside. With superb size and plus athleticism, Horn has the physical profile to match up against a variety of sizes and play styles. He is incredibly physical at the line of scrimmage, showing a nice combination of hand strength and lateral mobility, profiling as the premier press man cornerback in the entire 2021 class.
“In the run game, he flashes plus ability at the cornerback position. Horn is the type of player who can follow the opposing team’s top wide receiver all over the field, whether that be inside or outside. His hips are loose enough to transition both vertically or coming downhill. The box score will paint a picture about Horn but his ball skills are a lot better than what the stat sheet might let on, outside of the 2020 outing against the University of Auburn. He easily flips his hips, turns and makes plays on the football. Teams just appear a bit hesitant to challenge him in the passing game, rarely being tested down the field.
“Ball production is going to be the area that Horn will need to answer the question marks, something that he quieted some in his limited sample size during the 2020 season. There is some wasted movement out of his pedal currently, showing false steps and slow transitions at times.”
Matt Kalman is the editor of SI Patriot Maven. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.