From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#2 Justin Layne/CB Michigan State – 6’3 185
– NFL frame and room to grow into it, great length and shows flexibility in his stance
– Good leaper and times his jumps well, able to matchup against receivers on jump balls and defenders goal line fades as well as anyone
– Length helps him play the catch point and close quickly in the three step/quick game
– Willing tackler and supports the run, capable of closing quickly and shows some hit power
– Competent and comfortable in a press/man alignment
– Versatile, spent time at both outside corner spots, even played a little bit of wide receiver, and experience blitzing off the edge
– Underclassmen and room to grow
– Decent starting experience and good production, impactful player
– Shows stiffness, both in his transition flipping out of his pedal and closing downhill
– Doesn’t have great straight-line speed and vulnerable to receivers with excellent speed
– Lacks technique as a tackler, aims too low and has trouble breaking down, needs to become more refined
– Didn’t create a ton of turnovers, never had a year with more than one INT
– Has some problems finding the football in the air on vertical throws
– 26 career starts
– Career: 130 tackles, 24 pass breakups, three INTs
– 2018: 72 tackles, 15 breakups, one INT
– Began MSU career as a wide receiver, logged some time there in 2018 after injuries to the position, caught one pass for 11 yards
– Switched from WR to CB five games into his true freshman season
– Four-star recruit with offers from Alabama, Florida, and Michigan
There seem like a ton of receivers-turned-corners in this year’s draft class. Layne falls into that group, just as Brian Allen did when the team selected him two years ago. For a Steelers’ organization looking for defensive backs who can, ya know, catch, that’s attractive. So is his size and length.
Haven’t found many corners who play the jump ball better than Layne has. Tons of examples on it. Size and length are obvious pluses.
And he will come up to support the run and tackle. Flies downhill to try and make the play. A little sloppy, not much technique there, but he’s gotten the job done. 72 tackles in one year at corner is pretty uncommon.
But like a lot of long, lean corners, there’s stiffness in his game. He could improve with more coaching and experience, he is a true junior after all, but it’s always going to be there. Watch him at the bottom, forced to hold the receiver as he stems inside.
And the long speed isn’t there either. A 4.5+ guy, probably. Tough matchup here but Terry McLaurin burns him for what could’ve/should’ve been a touchdown.
Layne is being talked as a sleeper in some circles and I totally get the rationale. He’s a “paper” corner; on the surface, a lot to like. And he’s far from a finished product. Once his game is refined, he could become a starter in the league. Makes him a strong mid-round investment, someone you’re already expecting to wait a year or two on, but if he pushes into the Day Two conversation, it’ll be a little too strong for me. His stiffness without great speed is a worry.
Projection: Early Day Three
Games Watched: vs Utah State, vs Michigan, vs Ohio State