South Carolina football should be well represented come April.
The most recent edition of the NFL Draft is right around the corner with the first round set to kick off on April 29th, and like every year before it, analysts are doing their best to pin point the order and selection of college athletes looking to make the move to the next level. One of the more respected gurus on the matter is ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who’s made a living at projecting draft selections year in and year out.
Kiper recently unveiled his Mock Draft 4.0, which details the first two rounds of the event, and predicts where he believes players will land come April. A little bit surprisingly, two of those mentioned happen to be former South Carolina football players.
Junior cornerback Jaycee Horn is a no-brainer. The lockdown defender has been widely considered a first-round draft pick after wrapping up a three-year career in Columbia. That stint included a 2020 campaign that saw him pick off the first two passes of his career, and hold opposing wideouts to an SEC low 33% completion rate.
He’s generally been seen going between the No. 10 and No. 20 spots in most mocks, and Kiper believes he’ll fall right in the middle, going No. 15 to the Dallas Cowboys. This pick is made possible in Kiper’s draft prediction due to a proposed trade between Dallas and New England that allows the Patriots to move up and take a quarterback.
If it plays out this way, Horn would wind up being the second defensive back off the board, falling three picks behind Alabama corner Patrick Surtain, Jr. He’d be the third defender selected, regardless of position.
The surprise of the draft was linebacker Ernest Jones, who’s been viewed by most analysts as a late-round or free agent pick up. Kiper, however, has the Gamecocks’ leading tackler of the past two seasons making a huge jump into the second round, where he’s picked 57th by the St. Louis Rams.
Jones had a monster Pro Day last month, posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds, as well as a vertical leap of 38 inches and broad jump of 10-and-1/2 feet. That showing was enough to see his stock skyrocket by more than three full rounds.
In three seasons with the Gamecocks, Jones notched 199 tackles, leading the team in the department over both his sophomore and junior campaigns. If Kiper’s prediction holds true, he’ll be the seventh true linebacker off the board, and the second taken in the draft’s second round.
We’ll see if Kiper’s bullish projection of Jones comes to fruition, but either way, it appears as though the Gamecocks will be well represented when draft time comes around.