Vertical Coverage - Lacks great speed and acceleration, true speedsters like Terry McLaurin cooked him up deep. At his best when he can be effective with his hands early in the route, stemming the downfield progress of his opponent. Will attempt to pin receivers to the sideline mid-route on vertical patterns. Can be too grabby in these situations however. Uses his body well to keep from getting stacked. When he finds the football, length and leaping ability make him tough to beat in fade or jump-ball situations.
Fluidity/Agility - Stiff in the hips and operated from a wide base. Segmented mover, lack of fluidity make transitions far too slow. Struggles to recover after a false step at the line of scrimmage and will give up too much separation early in the route. Change-of-direction is limited, clunky footwork doesn’t help. Matches linear routes decently enough, but any hard-breaking pattern is easy pickings for a receiver. Inability to mirror-and-match causes incessant grabbing when he gets crossed up at the break point. Gets run off routes on back-to-the-ball patterns, struggle to decelerate and close.
Ball Skills - Often allows too much separation to even contest the catch point, struggling to get in position to limit throwing windows. On vertical routes, used his length to crowd the catch point and make tracking difficult for receivers, occasionally getting his mitts on the ball. Not naturally instinctive to find and make plays on the ball in most situations.
Click-and-Close - Sluggish transitions with a huge hitch out of his pedal. Doesn’t break quickly on underneath throws, failing to play with the twitch and anticipation of a playmaker. Does arrive in time to make sure tackles, closing fast with long strides to cover ground once he gets moving
Press Ability - Soft-shoe technique, backpedaling patiently off the snap rather than getting hands on early and being aggressive. Rarely a physical factor at the line of scrimmage, but has the length, strength and demeanor to disrupt smaller wideouts when he does operate more hands on. Will fire the wrong hand and get cross up off the line. Will shuffle hard the direction of the first jab step and give up early separation, especially on inside releases. Can get back on his heels and thrown off-balance when he tries to re-direct or turn quickly.
Route Recognition - Good zone spacing and didn’t see any blown coverages. Doesn’t play instinctive or anticipatory in zone, but is a sure tackler and stays balanced enough to react in a timely fashion. Will he play more aggressive with more experience? Far more reactionary player than pro-active in coverage. “Safe” zone defender.
Tackling - Not a big hitter, but ridiculous length and full speed closes allow him to make lots of low tackles to trip up runners. Comes in fast as a tackler, form can be unorthodox, but natural tools typically get the job done. When he comes in a bit high, can get shrugged off by bigger ball carriers.
Run Support - Good intensity against the run, flying up to make tackles in space or take on blockers on the edge. Leverages the perimeter well to turn runs back inside. Play tough and won’t hesitate to come downhill. Hit or miss with getting off receiver blocks, but has the length and intensity to project favorably there with added strength and technique. Moments of slow processing in zone leave a softer edge for runners to bounce to.
Competitive Toughness - Good play demeanor and intensity. Competes at the catch point and in the run game with equal levels of effort. Gets after receivers in routes, albeit sometimes excessively.
Athleticism/Size - Big, lanky cornerback with 33-inch arms that may need to put on some muscle in the NFL. Good speed for his size, but will give up something to faster matchups in the NFL. Agility is a concern, leaping ability is not.
BEST TRAIT - Size/Length
WORST TRAIT - Man Coverage Skills
RED FLAGS - None
It’s hard to figure out exactly why Layne has been a huge riser during the pre-draft process, as his Combine was just solid, and his tape leaves a lot to be desired as well. That’s not to say Layne doesn’t have any promise, as his length, physicality and good-enough long speed for a big corner are certainly intriguing if he could develop better press technique.
The big problem is that a cornerback’s primary job is to limit throwing windows, and Layne really doesn’t do that consistently at all. Speedier receivers beat him vertically, and all types can separate on in-breaking routes. Even limited nuance at the line of scrimmage was enough to win an inside release against him in press, and Layne’s transitions aren’t fluid or explosive enough to recover the early space created by most opponents.
Layne should project as a mid-round developmental cornerback whose best chance of playing (well) early would be in a zone-heavy scheme. Considering the fact he’s getting first round buzz right now, it is worth wondering if he will get the chance to progress as needed, or be thrust into a major role out of necessity right away.
Round Grade: Late 3rd