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After Northwestern’s pro day this week, which the Cleveland Browns attended, cornerback Greg Newsome is getting a lot more attention as one of the top all-around prospects at his position in the 2021 NFL draft.
Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Wt: 192 (from Northwestern pro day)
Newsome has a fantastic, long-armed build for playing outside CB in the NFL. He demonstrated a consistent high level of performance at Northwestern against all different types of receivers, but injuries limited him to just 21 games and cast a shadow over his evaluation and upside.
Games watched: Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State (2019 and 2020), Stanford (2019)
Fluid athlete with excellent body control at full speed
Understands how to use his length very well
Exceptional at pinching in zone coverage to cut off throwing angles and make the receiver really work to get free
Good play strength and not shy about contact at the line or with the ball in the air
High football IQ, senses and anticipates routes and offensive actions with keen savvy
Exceptional timing with his hands on contested-catch opportunities
Willing to hit and step up in run support
Can stay on the hip of outside receivers in man coverage and press to the sideline well
Flashed the top-end speed during his pro day with a 4.31 40-yard dash and it does show (though not that fast) on game tape
Durability; missed at least three games in each of his three college seasons with separate, unrelated injuries
Will get grabby against faster receivers, especially those who break to his inside (see Ohio State and Purdue games)
Will miss some tackles, tends to either aim too high or not wrap up
One career INT despite 25 career PDs and his hands fit the cliche of “there’s a reason why he plays defense”
Does not have the lateral quickness or quick feet to play inside
Newsome has the most consistent coverage skills of any CB in this draft class. He can win in man or zone coverage and handle all types of outside receivers. Newsome has the physical tools to be an island corner on the outside, but he also fits very well into a Cover-1-3 shell.
The missed games and frame are a legit concern. His body doesn’t appear capable of carrying more mass without inhibiting his athleticism. The tackling could be better, but the bigger issue in the NFL will be his instinctive grabbing at receivers who try and cross his face.
Newsome would step in right away as a starting outside CB, no matter the health status of Greedy Williams. They are somewhat similar players but Newsome plays faster and more physically, with a higher athletic ceiling. But for a Browns team that has struggled with injuries to Williams and Denzel Ward over the last couple of season, Newsome’s ongoing durability issues are a genuine drawback.
I wouldn’t fault any Browns fan for being scared off by the injuries. But if health isn’t a concern, Newsome is the best cover corner in this draft class for my money and should be off the board before the Browns pick at No. 26 overall. Should be. If he’s not off the board, he needs to be a serious consideration.