Jaycee Horn's NFL career began in Carolina in 2021 with great expectations typical of a top-10 draft pick.
Horn turned in a quality second season in 2022, ranking 29th among all cornerbacks in defensive grade, per Pro Football Focus. He set a new career-high mark in interceptions with three, recorded seven passes defensed, and logged 53 tackles. But the Panthers cornerback has played in a total of just 16 games over his first two years, and knows he won't be able to take the next step on his path toward prominence if he doesn't stay on the field.
"Obviously, I can't control some of the injuries I had. That's nobody's fault, here or there," Horn recently told The Athletic. "I've got to be available, be on the field, and goals like that -- that stuff will take care of itself with playing good football."
As the eighth-overall pick of the 2021 draft and the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, the younger Horn arrived to the NFL with much fanfare. Great expectations followed him from South Carolina to the next level, and it only took him two weeks to record his first interception of his career.
Unfortunately, a foot injury ended his season after three games, and health issues have persisted. That hasn't prevented some -- including NFL.com's Bucky Brooks -- from maintaining a belief that Horn will blossom into a premier player.
As of now, though, it's still wishful thinking.
"None of that stuff ever bothered me because I'm the one out there trying to get it done. It's just been unfortunate injuries," Horn said. "It's been all bone breaks, no soft tissue or anything. Just cracked bones. I can't control that, man. All I can do is try to play some good football when I'm out there and try to take all the precautionary measures to stay on the field. Outside of that, it's in God's hands."
Horn hopes 2023 is the start of a prosperous new era for him in his career. The Panthers have turned the page toward a new future as a franchise, replacing Matt Rhule's staff with a group led by Frank Reich. The fresh start and a healthy offseason has Horn believing his best days are ahead of him.
"This is kind of like my real first full offseason," he said. "I'm in a good spot right now."
A good spot could become a great one, should Horn live up to the expectations set for him by most everyone else.