COLUMBIA — Jaycee Horn remains No. 1.
South Carolina’s junior cornerback was the first defensive player taken in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 29, the Carolina Panthers believing Horn’s pre-draft assertion that he is the best corner among this year’s selection. Horn, who wore jersey No. 1 during two of his three seasons as a Gamecock, was the eighth overall pick.
He is the 15th USC player taken in the first round, the third in four years, the fifth USC defensive back to be a first-rounder and the 19th USC DB to be drafted since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. Exact contract terms haven’t been finalized, but last year’s eighth pick, Arizona Cardinals linebacker (and former Clemson standout) Isaiah Simmons, received a four-year, $20.66 million deal, including a signing bonus of $12.58 million.
As the eighth selection, Horn is the third-highest Gamecock ever drafted. USC has had two No. 1s (George Rogers and Jadeveon Clowney) and two No. 7s (Sterling Sharpe and Troy Williamson).
The son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn had a meteoric rise up draft boards midway through his third and final season at USC. A shutdown corner who had dabbled at nickel and safety the previous two years due to injuries to the Gamecocks’ other DBs, Horn was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week following a 30-22 upset of No. 15 Auburn.
Horn, who had never recorded a takeaway in 26 previous games, twice intercepted Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and tipped another pass that was intercepted by USC’s Jaylin Dickerson. The player who never had many opportunities to intercept, because of quarterbacks throwing to the other side of the field, blanketed star Tigers receiver Seth Williams and had four breakups and three tackles.
He earned second-team All-SEC honors despite only playing seven of the Gamecocks’ 10 games, electing to opt out after head coach Will Muschamp was fired with three games to go. He led the Gamecocks with eight defended passes, including six breakups and the two picks.
Horn finished his career with 101 tackles and 23 pass breakups.
Following an outstanding Pro Day where he blazed a 4.39 time in the 40-yard-dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 19 times (one more than the other top corner in the draft, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain, who was selected by Denver with the ninth pick), Horn was considered a can’t-miss first-rounder.
The draft continues on April 30 with Rounds 2-3. The Gamecocks’ Shi Smith, Israel Mukuamu, Ernest Jones and Sadarius Hutcherson could hear their names called.