The New England Patriots have one of the better cornerback depth charts in the league, but that might not be the case for long. Stephon Gilmore wants a new contract, J.C. Jackson is a restricted free agent and all but admitted to chasing the highest paycheck, and the Patriots could save over $6 million in 2022 cap space by parting ways with Jonathan Jones after the season. There is a very real chance that two of those three aren’t around next year, which means the Patriots should consider drafting someone like South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn.
Should the New England Patriots Draft Jaycee Horn?
New England’s defense is at its best when they have the personnel to play man coverage. The 2019 Patriots had the highest rate of man coverage in the league, and they’d certainly love to return to that in the 2021 season. At 6’-1” and 205 pounds, Jaycee Horn has the size to match up with just about any wide receiver in the league. He’s strong enough to go blow for blow with bigger receivers and fast enough to go stride for stride with speed demons.
Athleticism isn’t everything in the NFL, but it sure doesn’t hurt. All you have to do is turn on the tape to see that Horn is an absolute freak of nature. He ran a 4.39 at his Pro Day, although you should take all Pro Day numbers with a grain of salt. Because there was no NFL Combine, you just to trust the tape and know that Jaycee Horn is an elite NFL-caliber athlete.
Passing is king in today’s NFL, and finding elite players that can stop the pass is perhaps the most important part of the team-building aspect. Barring something completely unforeseen, Gilmore, Jackson, and Jones will be around for the 2021 season. This gives Horn a great opportunity to learn behind three great players before earning a full-time starting job in the 2022 season. J.C. Jackson is a good cornerback, but it’s easy to see the Patriots letting him go for a massive payday in a years’ time.
Why the Patriots Shouldn’t Draft Jaycee Horn
Truth be told, there really isn’t much to not like about Horn. He’s a great athlete at arguably the game’s most important non-quarterback position, and he already knows the subtle nuances of playing the position. Without any other major non-quarterback needs on the roster, he should be on the short list of options at pick 15.
The only real reason to not pick Horn is if the Patriots can package the 15th overall pick to get any one of the top quarterbacks. As of this posting, it sounds like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones are going off the board with the first three picks in the draft. This leaves Justin Fields and Trey Lance without homes, and both players have a realistic shot of turning into legitimate franchise quarterbacks.
Quarterback is easily the most important position in football, and the Patriots should be willing to send off the 15th overall pick in exchange for a shot at one of these two, with Fields being the preferable choice. Cam Newton is still a fine quarterback, and he deserves a shot to see what he can do with an NFL-caliber supporting cast. However, he’s not the long-term solution under center and the Patriots need to get a high-upside youngster into the mix.
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