When the Chargers made the move to release Casey Hayward, the team’s top corner of the past five years, it solidified a need at the position that would not be filled by an available player in this year’s free agency class. The team’s available capital was rightfully spent on the offensive line in an attempt to fix the franchise’s biggest glaring issue.
While there are still some notable cornerbacks left on the market, I’m not sure the Chargers want to commit to another veteran when they still have Chris Harris Jr. and a newly re-signed Michael Davis. With picks near the top of each round, they’re in a prime spot to land a top-six or seven corner pending on how the runs on quarterbacks and offensive lineman go in the first.
One name I’m starting to come around on is South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. The top-five corners in this draft seem to vary quite wildly depending on who you ask but Horn is usually somewhere between two and four for most. At 6’1 and 205 pounds, he’s built like a picture-perfect outside corner in the NFL with ideal length and a competitive tenacity that jumps out on film. Horn is a menace in press man coverage, which is something the Chargers are expected to play a lot more of in 2021.
“Each of the top three corners bring something to the table that could separate them from the pack. Caleb Farley, despite his injuries, is likely the best athlete of the group. Patrick Surtain II is probably the best technician. But there isn’t a position where confidence is more important than cornerback. You need to be a dawg to be a successful cornerback in the NFL and that’s what Jaycee Horn brings to the table. Some think he is a little too grabby, but that can be coached out. What you can’t coach into a player is the type of confidence to go out and shadow the opposing team’s best receiver for the entire game and shut him down. That’s why Horn is my number one-ranked corner.”
On the opposite side of the coin, some of the negatives in Horn’s game stem from his over-aggression as a tackler. Missed tackles are a thing with him, so you’ll have to take those with the good just like any other prospect.
Horn also has a bad tendency to guess when mirroring routes in press. This ties back into the aggression. Horn is incredibly smart and offers great nuance at the position but he can sometimes get himself into bad situations if he thinks he’s always going to be smarter than the person in front of him. This can lead to an occasional broken play, but it also means when he guesses right, the potential splash play can be even larger.
Now for some brief history.
Horn is the son of former four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn. He played roughly two and a half seasons with the Gamecocks, earning Second-Team All-SEC honors in 2020 after playing in seven games and picking off two passes with six pass breakups.
In his first two seasons, Horn collected 85 total tackles, six tackles-for-loss, three sacks, 17 pass breakups, and forced two fumbles in 22 starts.
At the end of the day, I think Horn is a great fit for the presumed changes of the Chargers defense from a Cover 3-heavy scheme to a more balanced Cover 2 man attack. If he’s the pick at #13, there are some notable lineman to be had in round two. If he somehow miraculously falls to the second round, then the Chargers need to sprint to the table with the pick in hand.