The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed Steven Nelson to play opposite Joe Haden. That doesn’t mean they won’t continue to build their often depleted cornerback depth. Justin Layne of Michigan State would be a very intriguing selection should the chance arise.
Justin Layne, Junior, Cornerback, 6’2″ 192 lbs
Michigan State University
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Three-year letter winner with 26 career starts at Michigan State… Played wide receiver in two games in 2018… Three-year starter at Benedictine High School as WR and CB… Four-year letter winner in basketball… Majored in Social Sciences
Key Combine Stats: 4.5 forty yard dash… 37.5″ vertical… 134″ broad jump… 6.9 sec Three-Corner Drill… 4.09 sec 20yd Shuttle
2018 Stats: 72 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 15 Pass Breakups
What’s To Like
Has very good, timely hands… Makes a very nice break on the ball… Can play both man-to-man and zone coverages with success… Has solid understanding of zone principles despite being more of a man-cover guy… Really good athlete who excelled in multiple sports and transitioned from receiver to corner during his freshman season at MSU… Really disciplined on the edge when he has contain… I like how he settles into the hip of the receiver in coverage/Looks very natural doing so… Have to love his length and height as a corner.
Tackling lacks consistency… Does not appear to be a big fan of contact/If he doesn’t have to hit anyone he won’t… Does not always look interested in supporting the run… While overall zone understanding is good, he has moments where he can get out of place… Quicker wide receivers will give him some problems… Will need to add strength to his upper body… His recovery speed is not very good…
This kid has all of the tools to be a really good man cover guy. His length and height, paired with good football smarts and understanding of routes could make him a really good player on someone’s defense. I always struggle with cornerbacks who don’t or aren’t willing to come up and smack a ball-carrier. Unfortunately I see that with Layne. The good news for him is that while run support is crucial, this is a passing league and being able to cover receivers trumps the lousy run support. I really don’t think he’s hit his ceiling yet and while good coaching can’t necessarily make a player more aggressive it can help with angles and being an even better player at corner. Because he sets a good edge for contain, I think that gets him points with some teams who will overlook his lack of tackling. I would not be surprised to see the Steelers take Layne if he were available in round three.
Final Grade: Mid-Second to Mid-Third Rounder
Games Watched: vs Ohio State (2018), vs Utah St (2018), vs Michigan (2018), Nebraska (2018)
Credits: sports-reference.com, youtube.com, msuspartans.com