When I first watched Jaycee Horn, I knew I’d love his game. Aggressive, technical press corners like the South Carolina product really get me excited to turn on the tape, and I wasn’t disappointed. Well… Not completely disappointed.
After I finished watching the film, I was just left with this feeling that I wanted more. More refinement, more consistency, just a little bit more from him. He’s a talented player and the son of former NFL Wide Receiver Joe Horn (remember the phone celebration? That was him) that has earned himself quite the reputation heading into the NFL Draft. The majority of the top analysts in the draft community value him as a First Round Draft pick and many consider his blend of talent and aggression to be worthy of being the first cornerback drafted.
I agree with the first statement. Horn is easily a first-round cornerback. Hell, he’s even worth a top 15 pick in my opinion. Why isn’t he the best corner in the draft?
Why Is Jaycee Horn a First Round CB?
Before we dive into the parts of Jaycee Horns game that concern me, let’s talk about what makes him worth a first-round pick.
If Horn’s mentality is the paint he’s putting on the canvas, his technique while in press alignment is the style he’s painting in. You can watch aggressive cornerbacks all day, but it’s only when a player can tie that aggression into his technique that you get the type of aggressive corner that can thrive in any system.
It takes a special kind of player to do that, and I think the former Gamecock can do it. When Jaycee Horn steps onto the field, his play is a fiery combination of aggression and technical brilliance that is constantly trying to find the right balance.
First of all, a player with Horn’s frame and athletic gifts are really hard to find. Standing at just over six feet tall with 33” arms and weighing in at 205 pounds during his pro day, the former Gamecock has the prototypical size NFL teams want in their corners. His athleticism more than meets their standards as well. At his pro day (numbers per Alex Katson’s Pro Day tracker) Horn jumped out of the gym with recorded 41.5” vertical and 133” (11’1”) broad jumps, and his 4.39 40 yard dash was nothing to scoff at either. He didn’t participate in agility testing, but that’s where his tape steps in. His acceleration and change of direction ability both stand out on film, as he covered all sorts of WRs throughout his time in college. At his best, Jaycee Horn can easily hang with the best athletes in the NFL.
Horns’ technique throughout the route can be inconsistent. His refinement at the line of scrimmage is remarkable. At times, he’ll “soft shoe” and mirror the receiver to perfection, ending the play by attacking the receiver’s hands to break up the pass. Other times he’ll play a kick or read step and once he gets hands on you, he is relentless.
Every once in a while, Horn is aggressive and attacks off the snap. This completely closes off one side of the field to the wide receiver’s release and limits where he can go. Horn constantly dictates the pacing of the route when at the line of scrimmage. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch on tape.
When targeted, Horn showcased good ball skills. The South Carolina cornerback finished his collegiate career with 2 interceptions and 23 pass breakups (per Sports Reference). While the numbers weren’t very high, Horn would go long stretches of game time where he was rarely targeted, especially during his past two seasons in the SEC.
Horn played from a variety of alignments during his tenure at South Carolina. He started in the slot his freshman year, played almost exclusively on one side in 2019. He began following wide receivers this past season. Horn’s skills at the line of scrimmage and man coverage speak to his scheme versatility. He will be at his best in man and press-heavy schemes.
Why Is Jaycee Horn Not CB1?
With every positive, there are some negatives. Horn’s film is good, the inconsistencies that showed up on film are a result of his aggressive playstyle.
Horn’s fiery mentality and physical play style do come with some drawbacks. Horn gets super grabby when he is in a bad position. I believe that this specific concern is a bit overstated though. Most of the time it’s Jaycee Horn having a hand on the receiver while in phase that garners a flag. It seemed to me that some of the flags were because Jaycee Horn had a certain playstyle.
The next couple of knocks on Jaycee Horn’s game stem from inconsistencies in his technique. His footwork in space when transitioning from his slide technique (He prefers it over a backpedal) to any sort of downhill or lateral movement needs cleaning up when in off coverage. Horn’s footwork gets a little sloppy and inefficient, probably because he rarely had to work from his slide technique, especially in 2020. It’s something that can and I expect will be fixed going into the NFL. If inefficient transitions continue to plague him in the NFL, his versatility will take a hit.
My biggest concern stems from one main issue, his eye placement. When Horn gets his hands on a wide receiver during the route, oftentimes he starts to look to the QB for the ball. This causes Horn to take his eyes off the receiver’s hips and reacting to route breaks late.
It happened against DeVonta Smith and Elijah Moore from Ole Miss. Initially, he gets in a good position off the line, but his eyes will go to the backfield which causes high hips. This creates inefficient movement and late reactions to lateral breaking routes.
What is Jaycee Horn?
It takes a special kind of person to play corner at a high level in the NFL, and when you combine that with Horn’s athleticism and technique at the line of scrimmage, you get the blueprint for a high-level Cornerback. Horn’s issues are coachable. Those issues keep him just outside of my CB1 conversation. His mentality and technique at the line of scrimmage entrenched him as a first-round draft pick.
Horn will demand the team’s top receiver, I don’t think he can lock down some team’s first option as a rookie. I do believe that he can be valuable in taking away at least one wide receiver a game with his ability to disrupt timing early in the play. Put the former All-SEC 2nd teamer against a more traditional “X” receiver, he becomes an eraser. Jaycee Horn is my CB3 in this draft. He is a good corner worthy of the early round discussions.