Why the Slide?: Justin Layne

Why the Slide?: Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Five years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Three years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

The 2019 NFL Draft was known to be a weak year at the cornerback position, but in the passing-driven NFL, there is always a demand for players who can help a defense in coverage. Layne was a late riser as an NFL prospect after starting out his collegiate career as a wide receiver. As a sophomore, Layne had a solid debut at corner with 40 tackles with eight breakups and an interception in 2017. He was improved as a junior, notching 72 tackles with 15 passes broken up and an interception. Layne then skipped his senior year to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder has good size and displayed quality speed in pre-draft workouts. Many thought he would be a second-round pick, but he ended up slipping to Round 3.

In speaking to team sources, Layne slipped to the third round because some teams did not value him earlier. They weren’t high on his technique and had him lower. One team said they had Layne in contention for their second-round pick, but ended up taking another player who they had a higher grade on. Overall, it sounds like more teams valued Layne in the third round rather than in the top 60.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ended Layne’s fall in the third round, and that was a good landing spot for him in some regards. Cornerback was a huge need for Pittsburgh, so Layne should have a great opportunity to earn playing time immediately. The Steelers need another corner to emerge across from Joe Haden, and Artie Burns has disappointed head coach Mike Tomlin. While Pittsburgh’s defensive backs have struggled at times, Tomlin was a superb defensive backs coach early in his career. He could groom Layne into a good starter if Layne is able to develop his technique. Thus, Layne has a golden opportunity to break though in the NFL after landing with the Steelers.

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