The Carolina Panthers took the first defensive player of the 2021 NFL Draft with the No. 8 overall pick, as they selected former South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn. Carolina had the chance to take a prospective offensive tackle in Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern or even Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, but proved they have trust in the current offensive line and new quarterback Sam Darnold.
Horn is the son of 12-year NFL veteran and four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn. He's also the fifth South Carolina defensive back selected in the first round since 1967, and the first since Stephon Gilmore. In seven games last year, Horn made 16 total tackles and two interceptions to go along with six passes defensed. Horn opted out of the final three games of the 2020 season after the dismissal of South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, but was still named to the All-SEC Second Team. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just eight receptions in 239 coverage snaps and allowed just a 33.3% completion rate, which ranked lowest in the SEC.
While Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama was the player favored to be the first cornerback off the board on Thursday night, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule decided to keep things in the Carolina's. It also kept his streak of only drafting defensive players alive. Last year, in his first season as head coach, the Panthers became the first team in the common-draft era to use all seven picks on defensive players. Horn was a playmaker from the time he stepped on campus in Columbia and was impressive in man coverage. He should help immediately with what Rhule is trying to build in Carolina.