Ex-Detroit Lions RBs coach Kyle Caskey breaks down NFL draft prospects
Former Detroit Lions running backs coach Kyle Caskey shares his thoughts on the backs in the 2021 NFL draft class.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Joe Horn had three straight 1,200-yard receiving seasons at the height of his NFL career, yet when it came time for his son, Jaycee, to pick a position, Horn nudged him towards the other side of the ball.
“I got a younger brother, Jacob, who plays receiver,” Jaycee Horn said at South Carolina pro day last month. “My older brother plays receiver and my dad, so I’m the only guy on the defensive side. And you know, it’s crazy, my dad kind of pushed me that way just cause, like, the aggression I had growing up and my ball skills. He always harped on if I could do that at the cornerback position, one day I’ll make a lot of money.”
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Horn is one of three top cornerbacks in this year’s NFL draft with famous fathers who had long NFL careers.
Patrick Surtain II is the son of longtime NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain Sr., who played 11 seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs and made three Pro Bowls.
Asante Samuel Jr.’s father, Asante Samuel Sr., was a four-time Pro Bowler with the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons who twice led the NFL in interceptions.
And Horn’s father, Joe, played for three teams in his 12 NFL seasons and was famous for a touchdown celebration in which he pulled a hidden cell phone out from the padding of a goal post.
All three are potential first-round picks, and either Surtain or Horn could be the first defensive player off the board.
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“I’m a baseball fan and you can’t turn on the TV without seeing Vlad Guerrero, Jr., or (Fernando) Tatis (Jr.) or (Bo) Bichette. (Cavan) Biggio. (All sons of former Major League players),” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “It seems like all these kids are coming up, and they’ve grown up around the game, so the transition is not going to be a big deal to those guys in any of these sports.
“They’re comfortable. They grew up around teams and locker rooms and they’ve learned kind of to stay — most of the ones I’ve talked to, they’re more even keel. They don’t get carried away with the highs or the lows because they’ve seen their dad experience all that stuff and he’s been able to kind of guide them through that.”
With their combination of bloodlines and experience, Horn, Surtain and Samuel headline a deep cornerback class that could produce as many as five first-round picks.
Jeremiah said NFL teams look favorably upon players with fathers who previously played in the league.
“It’s very helpful,” he said. “We used to always have the arguments in draft rooms about brothers. I think personally it’s more valuable if you’ve had a father that’s been through it and you’ve kind of grown up with it your whole life as opposed to maybe an older brother who is a couple years ahead of you that went through it.”
For Horn, growing up in a competitive household and having a father who experienced both success and failure in the NFL helped ready him for this opportunity.
He said opponents always came for his neck when he was young because he was Joe Horn’s son, and he said his dad gave him plenty of advice more recently on how to handle the pre-draft process and life in the NFL.
“Every day just think somebody’s watching you,” Horn said. “You got to be on your toes and just make smart decisions. And then as far as just my career, it’s kind of just staying humble, keeping an empty cup, learning from any and everybody in the building or in the facility, wherever I’m at. And just trying to strive to get 1% better every day, never feeling like I made it or I’m too good to take any advice from anybody.”
Horn, who called himself “the best defensive player in the draft,” will take a more traditional route to the NFL than his father, who played in the CFL after a stint in junior college and hooked on with the Chiefs as a fifth-round pick.
A potential top-20 selection, Horn said hearing his name called on draft night will be “a big thing for us being a football family.”
“My dad played a long time in the league and we’re kind of used to the NFL, so definitely going to be fun being able to live out my dream and my dad seeing me play in the same league he dominated in,” he said. “It’s just a blessing all around.”