2021 NFL draft: Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II states case as first-rounder

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

24. Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II

6-foot, 192 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.04 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Cocksure cover man who dominated for a stretch but carries durability concerns

Games watched: Purdue (2020), Wisconsin (2020), Michigan State (2020), Ohio State (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Newsome enrolled early at Northwestern and started four of six games as a true freshman, making 23 tackles and four pass breakups. An ankle injury causing him to miss eight games.

He missed the final three games of the 2019 season with an undisclosed injury after making 36 tackles (one for loss), 11 pass breakups and one fumble recovery in nine games (eight starts).

In 2020, Newsome was named third-team AP All-America and first-team All-Big Ten in making 12 tackles, one interception and 10 pass breakups in six games before suffering a groin injury in the first half of the Big Ten title game. He skipped Northwestern’s bowl game and declared early for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Quick-twitch athleticism and terrific speed jumps out on tape — and his vertical jump (40 inches), broad jump (123 inches) and 40-yard dash (4.38 seconds) back that up. Fluid movement skills and loose hips. Light on his feet and ready to pounce.

Natural coverage skills to mirror and glue himself to receivers — close enough to name the brand of cologne by game’s end. Breaks hard and fast on routes and can do so without the benefit of a speed turn. Excellent click-and-close ability. Gets good body position on 50-50 balls.

Strong playmaking instincts — 25 passes defended in 21 career games. Anticipates when the ball is coming his way. Allowed only one 7-yard catch in his final three-plus games — was playing the best ball of his career when he got hurt vs. OSU. Opponents basically ignored his side of the field the final four games he played.

Allowed only 11 of 34 targets (zero TDs) completed last season. Stepped on money downs in 2020, allowing zero third-down completions on nine targets (with four pass breakups). Didn’t allow a reception longer than 19 yards last season — did a better job of staying on top of receivers and keeping his man from stacking him.

Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II, right, made several eye-opening plays in coverage in 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II, right, made several eye-opening plays in coverage in 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Played both sides in coverage roughly equally in his career. Handled steady diet of man and zone coverages and was adept in both — showed patience and recognition in zone and didn’t look panicked in man. Technique rarely looked clunky or unnatural.

Hitter who comes downhill fast — willing, aggressive tackler. Plays bigger and longer than his frame suggests. Excellent number on the bench press (18 reps).

Cocksure defender who loves to get into receivers’ heads and under their skin. Trash talker who can back it up. Never backs down from a battle and asks for the toughest assignments. Short memory — will allow a catch and move onto the next battle. Film-room junkie who takes notes on every receiver he faces. Strong football instincts and competitiveness.

Downside: Seldom was healthy in college — season-ending injuries three years running, including multiple lower-body injuries. Slight, lean body frame is worrisome for long-term durability. Needs to add more musculature.

Short arms (31 1/8 inches), small hands (8 7/8 inches) and narrow wingspan (73 3/4 inches). Can struggle to engage and battle with longer, more physical receivers and can get boxed out at the catch point.

Relatively inexperienced — only 21 college games (18 starts). Didn’t face a slew of top talent in 2020 outside of Purdue’s David Bell and was robbed of more than a half of football against Ohio State and a potentially good WR matchup vs. Auburn in the bowl game.

Not yet a proven finisher. Only one career interception despite all the balls he deflected — hands might not be elite. Average to below-average numbers in the short shuttle (4.26 seconds) and 3-cone drill (6.90 seconds). Lack of high-end suddenness occurs at the tops of routes, when he can get turned around and off-kilter.

Gets extra handsy and can play hyper-aggressively. High penalty total — 16 flags in 21 games, including seven pass-interference calls against him in his final 14 contests. Play strength appears average despite a good BP total — stays stuck on receivers’ blocks.

Best-suited destination: Newsome profiles as an ideal CB2 for a team that works in press- and off-man coverages, as well as some zones (cover-2/4/6). He’s got the temperament to hold up to tough assignments and yet might be best if not put on an island weekly vs. the league’s best wideouts. If Newsome can stay healthy and add strength, he should be a fit for most defensive schemes, but especially those of the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Did you know: Newsome has a standard greeting for the man he’s assigned to cover at the start of a game.

“After every first play, I tell the receiver: ‘I’m on your hip all game,’” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Player comp: Marlon Humphrey

Expected draft range: Late first-round pick

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