CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In a bit of a surprise, the Carolina Panthers went defense in the first round of the NFL Draft as they selected cornerback Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina with the 8th overall pick.
It is a surprise because the Panthers used all of their picks in last year’s draft on defensive players. With more needs on the offensive side of the ball this time around, most thought the pick would be perhaps an offensive lineman or wide receiver, but Panthers head coach Matt Rhule says corner is a big need as well and this player was too great to pass up.
“I think when you look at the NFC South, the big receivers we have to face week in and week out, obviously you have Mike Evans, you have Chris Godwin, you have Michael Thomas, you have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, now Kyle Pitts,” said coach Rhule. “It is going to take a lot of guys who can cover and also cover really big men. You know how we feel about Donte, we’re excited about the guys we brought in last year but there is a size match up in the NFC South that matters and he checks that box for us.”
“What he does so well is his man cover ability, his quickness, the feistiness of him as a player, his ability to mirror and turn and run with the receivers,” said Panthers General Manager Scott Fitterer. “He’s the exact fit that Coach [Phil] Snow wants on our defense. We just saw the best fit with him.”
At 6 foot 1 and with 33 inch arms, he is a big corner that will come in handy covering the weapons in the NFC South. He also runs a 4.39 forty.
Jaycee’s father is former Pro Bowl WR Joe Horn and that is another reason why the team felt they couldn’t pass on Horn.
“He’s grown up with it this whole life, played at the highest level,” said coach. “He’s a rare physical specimen who also has the pedigree that’s hard to find.”
Horn’s stats won’t WOW you as he only had 2 career interceptions in his career with the Gamecocks, but stats are not why the Panthers were high on Horn.
“I think when you watch Jaycee Horn play on tape, it just jumps off the tape,” said coach. “His competitiveness. His ability to do a lot of different things. When you play bump and run corner in the SEC, with your back turned to the quarterback, you aren’t going to have a ton (of interceptions) but he did have production. We see that he can do a lot of different things. Again, it fits a need for us.”
At pick number 8, Ohio State QB Justin Fields was still available. Why didn’t the team go for the potential franchise QB?
“We brought Sam [Darnold] here for a reason,” said coach. “We’re excited to see what he can do. We’re excited to give him an opportunity. We traded for him because we believe in his potential.”
“He (Horn) was just the top rated player on our board,” said Fitterer. “We saw someone that could come in and make an immediate impact for us as a starter, as a corner, playing the opposite of Donte [Jackson]. He’ll do a great job for us. We see him as his potential is unlimited and the immediate impact is why we did it.”
The Panthers have the 39th pick in the 2nd round and the 73rd pick in the 3rd round which will take place on Friday.
Will they finally go offense? We will just have to wait and see.