The 2019 NFL draft is deep at cornerback, but there’s yet to be a clear-cut consensus on this year’s top prospect at the position.
You’d be to wise to include Michigan State’s Justin Layne when having the discussion.
A well-rounded prospect with length and speed in bunches, Layne spoke exclusively with MCM about playing both offense and defense for the Spartans, how he covers a bigger receiver differently from a speedier one, and one area he’d love to improve in next season.
JM: You came to Michigan State as a wide receiver and eventually made the transition to cornerback. You actually played some receiver again in 2018 due to some injuries at the position. Was it tough to jump back and forth like that?
JL: I didn’t find it difficult at all. I played both positions in high school at the same time. I was used to being a two way player. Honestly people try to make it more complicated than it actually is. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life. I didn’t find it difficult at all. I was happy to help the team out however they needed me too.
JM: What was the hardest part about it?
JL: I would probably point to learning everything backwards. You’re backpeddling now. As a receiver, you’re obviously going forward. That’s what you’re doing when you play receiver. You’re not worrying about backpeddling. That’s really the biggest difference. You’re learning things backwards now (laughs).
Michigan State CB Justin Layne has some great red zone reps on his film. Patient, physical, & plays the catchpoint well - pic.twitter.com/j3g1UsytZA— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 22, 2019
JM: How does your experience playing receiver make you a better cornerback?
JL: It taught me a lot about anticipation. I have a great feel for what a receiver is gonna do before he actually does it. It allows me to be instinctive. I have a great feel for the routes before they develop. I usually know which way a guy is gonna run before he even starts heading in that direction. I credit that to my background as a receiver.
JM: How do you cover a smaller, speedier receiver differently than you may a bigger, more physical receiver?
JL: You have to be more patient with a speedy guy. It takes a lot of patience at the line of scrimmage. With the bigger guys, I try to jam them up. You have to be physical with them at the line and you can’t let them get their hands on you. I definitely have to be patient with the speedy guy though. I probably won’t press him as much. I’ll probably just try to cut him off or something. Patience is the key with those shifty guys.
Justin Layne had a stellar season in coverage for Michigan State and is a name to watch in the upcoming NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/7biFVgpP0C— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 18, 2019
JM: Is there one area or category that you’d like to see your game improve in next season?
JL: I wanna be a better all around player next season. There’s always room for improvement. I would like to finish next season with more interceptions than I did a year ago. I had 15 pass break-ups and one interception last season. I’d like to convert some of those pass break-ups into more takeaways. Takeaways are so valuable at the next level. There’s always something you can work on. You can never be satisfied with your game. It’s never a finished product. I can improve all over the field.
JM: When you look back on your collegiate career 10 years from now, what do you think being a Spartan will have meant to you?
JL: We’re a brotherhood. I’ll never forget my time there and the relationships that were created. Being a Spartan means you’re a warrior. That’s exactly what we were. A whole bunch of warrios bound together by one common goal. We always put the team before the individual. We don’t have individual goals. Being a Spartan means earning everything. We didn’t have anything handed to us. We’re used to going out and earning it. I always went out there and respected the tradition and the logo.
JM: I don’t know if you watch much TV but if you, what was the last Netflix series you binge watched?
JL: Ohhh that’s a good question. I’d probably have to go with How to Get Away with Murder. I love that show. I binge watched that one for sure. I’m watching The Umbrella Academy right now. That show is wild. It’s really good. I highly recommend it. I’m enjoying that right now.
JM: In closing, why should a team invest one of their draft picks into Justin Layne?
JL: You’re getting a lockdown corner when you draft me. I’m an athletic guy that can really thrive at the next level. You’re getting a cornerback that’s coming to work every day with the mentality that I’m going to get better.