Jaycee Horn Centric Three-Round Chargers Mock Draft
There have been some significant developments over the last week with strong draft implications for the Los Angeles Chargers. First and foremost was the release of Casey Hayward and the subsequent lack of free agency moves to replace him. The Chargers are going to have to revamp their secondary and that will likely happen through the draft.
The second significant development here is that Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley will be having his second back surgery in the last two years. Both have come in a more recent time frame than his last appearance for the Hokies. That surgery will likely push Farley down much further on the board than was previously thought possible.
Meaning South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn should become that much more sought after. He has a strong support group among draft analysts that think he could even be the first corner selected in April’s draft. Horn revealed today that he has met with the Chargers a few times, per Brawl Network’s Dan Wolkenstein. He also revealed that he shares an Agent with Derwin James and has a good connection with the Chargers’ new secondary coach Derrick Ainsley, who recruited him out of high school.
It was always possible that the Chargers would select a cornerback in the first round, but these three developments could make it even more likely. Horn is a great player and is my highest graded cornerback on the board. However, the downside of selecting him is obviously that their biggest need (left tackle) would yet again be pushed down the board for theoretically a lesser player. So I wanted to do a mock draft where selecting Horn in round one was the focus, and show you guys what that would look like afterward.
Round One, Pick 13
Jaycee Horn – Cornerback – South Carolina
The good news for the Chargers in terms of potentially selecting Horn with the thirteenth overall pick is that the teams in need of a cornerback selecting ahead of them play zone heavy schemes: The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, so Horn should be on the board if the Chargers want him. The Cowboys took Patrick Surtain II in this simulation.
Horn is a feisty man coverage corner who excels in press situations. He is a fluid mover in space and possesses the requisite speed and athleticism to keep up with opposing wide receivers. For my money, he is also the best tackling corner in the draft – which is a very important aspect of the way Staley will use the position.
The best thing about Horn is the swagger with which he plays the position. You can teach a corner to be less grabby, which is his main criticism, but you can’t teach a corner to have full confidence of being put on an island and knowing you can shut down the man across from you.
Brandon Staley covets the ability to have a numbers advantage of some kind in the secondary. That requires someone in the secondary to have the ability to be put on an island and shut that side of the field down. The Rams obviously had Jalen Ramsey and were able to build out the rest of their defense around him, which led to them having the highest performing secondary in the league. I am not comparing Horn to Ramsey but they do have similar abilities in that sense. The Chargers headed into the offseason needing to get younger and more athletic in the secondary, and they would accomplish that with this selection.
Round Two, Pick 47
James Hudson – Offensive Tackle – Cincinnati
Selecting anything other than an offensive tackle with the 13th pick is a risk because it likely means they would be looking at taking one of the tackles from the fourth tier instead of taking one from the second (I believe Penei Sewell is in a tier of his own) in the first round. If the Chargers had the 6th pick of the second round it would be more feasible for them to get their franchise left tackle at that point. Both Liam Eichenberg and Dillon Radunz were on the board at pick number 39 for the Philadelphia Eagles in this simulation, and both were selected before the Chargers pick came around. Radunz being on the board would be an absolute dream outcome in this scenario because I believe he has the highest ceiling of that third tier of tackles and could start right away as well.
There were some high-level interior offensive linemen on the board in this simulation, namely Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis. However, I would have them pivot to the next group of offensive tackles in this scenario because there are high-quality interior offensive linemen that they could target in the third much more feasibly than offensive tackle. So my selection here would be Hudson, the offensive tackle out of Cincinnati.
Hudson is a hyper-aggressive and hyper-athletic offensive lineman who really tries to physically impose his will on opposing rushers. He possesses one of the strongest first punches in the class and combines that with great leg drive as a run blocker. He is a former defensive tackle, and that’s where that aggressive mentality stems from.
The risk here is that he has only played on the offensive side of the ball for two seasons, one of which was a redshirt season where he was only allowed to play in the Bearcats’ bowl game. So he is inexperienced and will need to be coached up. The drafting of Hudson is a case where I would have liked to see the Chargers bring back Sam Tevi to allow for a training camp competition. I do believe Hudson could be a day one starter, but I wouldn’t want him entering training camp as the unquestioned starter – especially given the fact that OTA’s are probably not happening again this year. If the Chargers do sign a different veteran left tackle, I would still want them to select Hudson who could battle with or potentially sit for a season and then take over for Bryan Bulaga following the 2021 season.
Round Three, Pick 77
Kendrick Green – Interior Offensive Lineman – Illinois
Players like Green, Quinn Meinerz out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks are why I think the Chargers could wait to draft an interior offensive lineman until the third round. And even with the additions of Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, they should still look to add one of these players to continue to add talent to the group.
Green would be my choice of all the bunch due to his athleticism. There is a legitimate argument to be made for him being the most explosive interior offensive lineman in the class, so he could be selected much sooner than this. At this point, I would say it’s probable that he ends up being selected somewhere in the 60-80 range just due to the strength of the class, although it only takes one team to really believe in a guy and take him much sooner than we all think. Wide receiver and offensive tackle are also really strong classes, so that will push a lot of talented players down the board.
In the Chargers case, Green has guard and center flexibility which seems to fit their current mold of offensive linemen. He could compete with Aboushi for the starting right guard spot or be the swing lineman and serve as the first option off the bench. This would be preferable over what the Chargers had last year with Tyree St. Louis or Ryan Groy because Green is a far more talented player.
Round Three, Pick 97
Jordan Smith – Edge Rusher – UAB
This edge rusher class lacks a true top dog of talent, but I do believe if Gregory Rousseau had played this year he would probably be that guy. What it lacks in top-tier talent, though, it makes up for with a lot of depth in the developmental group and that’s where I think the Chargers will make their selection from.
We know that Joey Bosa is going to be in that playmaking edge rusher role that coach Staley had with Khalil Mack and Bradley Chubb, but what we don’t know is who is going to be filling that Leonard Floyd or Von Miller role. Right now it’s pegged to be Uchenna Nwosu and he could certainly take advantage of his expanded role in 2021 and become that guy. He was one of Pro Football Focus’s most efficient pass rushers. In 2020 he had a pass-rush productivity rate of 8.2 which would have ranked ahead of guys like Mack and Chubb if he had been able to qualify for the minimum snap percentage.
The problem with Nwosu has always been health. The previous coaching staff didn’t think he could hold up to a full workload which is why even when Melvin Ingram was injured they started Jerry Tillery at Edge instead of him. Obviously with a new coaching staff and new scheme that perception could change. The Chargers could take an edge rusher earlier than this point. Rousseau would be one heck of a dice roll at 13, and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari would be a perfect fit for that Miller/Floyd role opposite of Bosa. I would have to think that the chance of getting the first edge rusher off the board would be very tempting for Staley.
Joe Tryon out of Washington would also be a great fit. However, they can’t really afford that kind of luxury with the status of their offensive line and secondary so I think taking a swing on a developmental guy is more likely.
My preference for that group would be Smith, who I selected in this simulation. Northern Iowa’s Ellerson Smith would be a great choice as well. Both are athletic freaks with great length, and both were able to go down to Mobile and excel at the Senior Bowl. But Jordan Smith was able to play in 2020 so we have more visual proof of his development, unlike Ellerson Smith whose season was outright canceled due to Covid.
This is an interesting scenario because we all know how unpredictable Tom Telesco has been when it comes to the draft. If they view Horn as a can’t miss corner prospect it would not surprise me if they took him in the first round. He also hasn’t shied away from prospects with questionable medical history so Farley is a possibility as well. Even though every fiber of my being is hoping for an offensive tackle.