There has been, and will always be, the question surrounding how the Carolina Panthers ultimately used the eighth overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft. Will the organization ever fully regret not taking, especially given their particular need at the position, quarterback Justin Fields or Mac Jones?
Perhaps. In fact, there might be some of that doubt going around already. But there’s certainly no doubt about how good of a player they wound up with in the end.
And that player is Jaycee Horn, who is everything you want in a promising young cornerback—even if we only saw it for three regular-season games thus far. That’s why, with what’s hopefully a full and healthy sophomore campaign ahead of him, he’s Pro Football Focus’ pick for the team’s breakout player in 2022.
“Horn was only able to play 95 coverage snaps before getting shut down due to injury in his rookie campaign,” PFF senior college analyst Anthony Treash writes. “He was targeted five times in that span and allowed one catch for an 8-yard touchdown but made it up with an interception the next week. If healthy in 2022, Horn is a prime candidate to break out. In his last year in the collegiate ranks, Horn allowed only eight catches across seven games while making nine plays on the ball. He brings the physicality and confidence and is only improving from a technical standpoint.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder—given that weighty investment—will assuredly be taking most of those coverage snaps from the outside in 2022 as the Panthers groom him to become one of the league’s premier cover men. Carolina may also lose at least one (or maybe both) of Stephon Gilmore or Donte Jackson to free agency this spring, only further solidifying Horn’s status.
But Horn, in a time of need for the banged-up secondary, did fill in at the slot for 37 snaps and did so quite admirably. So even in those limited 95 passing defenses, the University of South Carolina product exhibited his versatility as well as his elite pedigree.
There’s really little to no doubt Horn “breaks out” at some point. It’s just a matter of when, not if, and “when” should come relatively soon as he continues to put that broken foot behind him.
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