CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers selected cornerback Jaycee Horn from South Carolina with the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night, passing on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to help upgrade their defense.
Horn was the first defensive player selected in the draft. Carolina spent all seven picks on defensive players last year.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Horn appeared in 30 games during his career for the Gamecocks and had 101 tackles and two interceptions. He is known for being an aggressive, attacking cornerback and fills an immediate need for the Panthers, who struggled in pass defense a year ago.
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said the team was ready to entertain all trade options for the No. 8 pick but wound up keeping it.
Fields was still available when the Panthers made their selection, but the team appeared to show its confidence in quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Panthers are coming off a 5-11 season, prompting Fitterer and coach Matt Rhule to send three draft picks to the New York Jets in exchange for Darnold. The team then traded last year’s starting QB Teddy Bridgewater to Denver for a sixth-round pick.
The Panthers were also intrigued by Oregon’s 6-foot-6, 339-pound tackle Penei Sewell to fill a major need, but the Lions took him with the seventh pick.
It marks the first time the Panthers have selected a cornerback in the first round since taking Chris Gamble in 2004.