Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Jaycee Horn. The South Carolina cornerback checks in at number 62 in the countdown.
The 2021 NFL Draft will have a loaded cornerback class. At the top, it’s Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley.
The third cornerback off the board is likely going to be South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. If Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver, Joe Horn falls to the Green Bay Packers at 29 (big if) Brian Gutekunst should run to the podium to make the pick.
Horn was a three-year starter for the Gamecocks. As a freshman in 2018, Horn recorded 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and eight pass deflections. As a sophomore, Horn recorded 40 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and broke up nine passes.
“He started basically from day one,” Hale McGranahan, a reporter for TheBigSpur.com said. “They had him playing nickel as a freshman. When he moved to the outside as a sophomore it was pretty clear he has all the physical traits and he translates that to the field. He can run pretty well, but he’s long and he’s going to get his hands on you and try to beat you by being physical with you at the line of scrimmage.”
This past season, Horn played in seven games before opting out to prepare for the draft. In those seven games, Horn picked off two passes and broke up six passes.
Most of Horn’s production came during South Carolina’s upset victory over Auburn. In that game, Horn broke up five passes and picked off two more while allowing just two receptions.
“That was sort of the marquee game of his career,” McGranahan said. “The funny thing about Jaycee coming into this season is he didn’t have any interceptions. Everybody around here, who watched him every day, knew how good he was. It was only a matter of time before it happened, but teams weren’t throwing his way.”
Horn has prototypical size (6-1) with long arms. He’s a physical press corner that does a great job of squeezing receivers to the sidelines. According to Pro Football Focus, Horn allowed just eight receptions in 2020.
“He covers really well,” McGranahan said. “The length and physicality are the first things you notice. You rarely saw him get beat. Obviously, every cornerback is going to get beat from time to time, but he was really good in coverage. He was just covering guys up and quarterbacks weren’t throwing to his side of the field.”
A lot of critics will point to Horn’s lack of ball production and say he doesn’t have good ball skills. The fact of the matter is Horn just wasn’t targeted in coverage enough to make a ton of plays on the ball.
Horn is excellent at the catch point. He has very good, natural hands. If he doesn’t come down with an interception when he’s targeted, you can bet he’s forcing an incompletion.
“He’s got good ball skills,” McGranahan said. “Just look at his name and know who his dad is. He’s going to be able to catch the ball. He can play the ball well.”
Horn has impressive bloodlines. His father (Joe) played in the league for 12 years. The younger Horn has been around the game of football for a long time. He has a high football IQ and understands what it takes to be a pro.
“He’s pretty intelligent on the field,” McGranahan said. “Off the field, he seems like a pretty bright guy. He studies a lot and is really invested. He’s always working on his craft. He’s bought in from the mental side of the thing.”
Fit with the Packers
With Kevin King likely having played his last snap in Green Bay and the talent behind Jaire Alexander severely lacking, the Packers will most certainly be on the prowl for playmakers at the cornerback position.
Horn checks all the boxes, with his size, coverage ability, and ball skills. He has the potential to take half the field away.
With “Jaire Island” already in place, Horn would be a slam dunk pick that would give new defensive coordinator Joe Barry two cornerbacks capable of locking up the top receivers in the game.
“You’re always looking for guys that can cover that can shut down half of the field,” McGranahan said. “He did a really good job of that in South Carolina. In today’s NFL with teams throwing it as much as they do, you need guys with his length. You want to get as many of those guys as you can, who can cover those bigger receivers and run downfield with them.”
The Packers need to play with more of an edge on defense. Horn may be one of the most physical cornerbacks in the draft. He’d play right into the Packers getting an attitude adjustment on defense.
A big reason why Horn isn’t higher on this countdown is due to the fact that it’s highly unlikely he’ll be on the board when the Packers are on the clock with the 29th pick.
Gutekunst has shown that he’ll be aggressive in moving up in the draft to get the man he covets. It’s possible that Gutekunst moves up to snag Horn if he falls into the early 20s to get Alexander a new running mate.