Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II emerged as an NFL Draft sleeper in 2020. However, his reputation hasn’t yet elevated beyond that threshold. It’s time we change that. Newsome has the name recognition of a sleeper but the traits and production of an eventual impact starter at the NFL level. What makes Newsome a prospect worthy of such a reputation?
Greg Newsome II NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 190 pounds
Current Year: Junior
Greg Newsome made clear that football was his future from an early age. The future Northwestern cornerback played part of his high school career at the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, amassing 2 interceptions and 15 pass deflections in his time there. By his senior year, Newsome was 6-foot-0, boasting a long frame with impressive potential.
Newsome was a three-star prospect in the 2018 recruiting class. He received offers from Power 5 schools such as Iowa, Illinois, Syracuse, Minnesota, and Boston College. However, at just 167 pounds, his weight prevented him from earning the attention of more prestigious schools.
Nevertheless, Newsome did receive an enticing offer from an up-and-coming school in his state — the Northwestern Wildcats, coached by Pat Fitzgerald. Seeing what was growing in Northwestern, Newsome chose the Wildcats as his college football destination. From there, a future star began to develop.
Greg Newsome’s career as a Northwestern cornerback
By the time his first season came around, Newsome had already gained an extra inch and packed on 15 pounds. Now listed at 6-foot-1, 182 pounds, he saw early action as a true freshman, playing in six games for the Wildcats. Over that span, the Northwestern cornerback managed to amass 24 total tackles, while also showing off his coverage upside with 4 pass deflections.
In 2019, the next logical progression for Newsome was moving into the starting lineup. Clearly an exceptional talent, Newsome was made a starter as a true sophomore, and the Northwestern coaches reaped early rewards for his promotion.
Newsome started eight of nine games played in 2019, logging 36 total tackles and 11 pass deflections. By now, Newsome was starting to emerge as one of the better cornerbacks in the Big Ten. However, unbeknownst to onlookers, his best was yet to come.
Greg Newsome’s 2020 campaign
Injuries occluded Newsome’s path to production in 2020, but he nevertheless produced, and he produced at one of the highest rates among Big Ten defensive backs. Playing in less than six full games, Newsome was a lockdown cornerback for the Wildcats, accumulating 12 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and the lone interception of his career.
Quarterbacks rarely targeted Newsome, and when they did, they often paid for it. The Northwestern cornerback displayed a penchant for protection against opposing wide receivers. His 2020 play officially put him on the map, earning him first-team All-Big 10 honors.
Unfortunately, Newsome left the Big Ten Championship with a groin injury, but the event did not affect his stock. By then, Newsome had already announced himself as one of the league’s up-and-coming NFL Draft prospects. He opted out of Northwestern’s bowl game, instead choosing to heal and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Now, the next chapter will begin for Newsome, who aims to achieve stardom at the next level.
Analyzing Greg Newsome’s NFL Draft profile
Physical traits are perhaps the most transparent when evaluating prospects. They stand out with relative immediacy, and from there, you can conduct your evaluation with the awareness of a given player’s upside. Greg Newsome’s physical upside stands out right away when watching his tape. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Newsome is an especially long cornerback. However, more importantly, he has excellent athletic traits to pair with that length.
Having functional mobility is necessary for cornerbacks in the modern NFL, and Newsome couples that mobility with his rangy frame. He’s incredibly twitchy as an athlete, and he’s very abrupt when shooting out of his breaks and closing on the ball.
He has the short-range explosiveness to help facilitate searing breaks on in-breaking routes, and he also has the recovery speed to shadow players who try to sneak around him and escape deep up the field. It helps that his hips are surprisingly fluid for his size; he changes direction with uncanny pace and seamlessly transitions into his forward approach upon changing directions.
Newsome’s strong movement ability in the short and intermediate ranges allows him to maintain adequate positioning against wide receivers. When in position, Newsome is similarly impressive. His length naturally gives him a ton of disruption capacity. Furthermore, the Northwestern cornerback has frequently shown he can use that disruption capacity effectively.
He has impressive instincts for timing and elevation at the catch point, and he doesn’t shy away from battles for the ball.
As if Newsome’s profile wasn’t already enticing enough, he’s also smart for his age. Only a true junior, Newsome has impressive processing speed, reaction quickness, and route recognition ability. He’s also versatile, with traits that translate well in press-man, off-man, and zone alignments.
What are the potential concerns with Greg Newsome?
Overall, Newsome’s physical profile and tangible ball skills give him a solid floor and exciting upside to build on. However, there are some mitigating factors to take into account.
On one hand, Newsome’s frame gives him the length to be disruptive. Yet, being 190 pounds, he is noticeably lean and doesn’t quite have the density that other cornerbacks have.
He still approaches the game with inspiring proactivity and a physical mindset. However, his lacking frame limits his upside when imposing his physicality on opponents. This shows up at times in pass coverage, but it’s more prevalent in run defense. There, Newsome doesn’t always have the power necessary to disengage blockers, and his tackling success comes more from his length than from his play strength.
Additionally, Newsome’s durability is a concern, as he’s never played a full season and only played six games in 2020 due to injury.
Furthermore, while Newsome is an exceptional athlete, his deep speed remains an unchecked box. He wasn’t burned — or even targeted — very often in 2020, but he can be a little leggy when transitioning vertically. Additionally, the lacking sample size of deep reps naturally makes his long speed an area of uncertainty.
Personally, I don’t think it will be an issue. I see him clocking in with a low 4.5 at the slowest. But it’s an unanswered question that he’ll have to prioritize at his pro day.
Greg Newsome’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Newsome may need to add more weight to his frame in the NFL, and he’ll also have to prove that he can stay on the field consistently. However, aside from his weight, there aren’t many areas of concern with the Northwestern cornerback’s game, and there are many reasons to be excited. Newsome is an excellent athlete with excellent length and ball skills, and he’s also smart, heady, and shows flashes of proactive physicality.
Newsome’s injuries bear weight, and in a clustered cornerback group early on, those injuries might push Newsome down the board. Nevertheless, while Newsome missed games every year, he never suffered a major injury.
The nature of his injuries provides some comfort because he doesn’t have a major injury in his past that might sap his athleticism. The trend of injuries is concerning, but perhaps with an NFL training regimen and more work on his frame, he can elevate past those concerns. And once he reaches a point where he’s consistently available, he can be a high-level boundary starter.
Which teams best mesh with Newsome’s skill set?
Given Newsome’s versatility, he’s a fairly universal fit for teams that might need a boundary starter in the near or immediate future. Because he’ll need to refine his frame a bit, he may be better served going to a team that has some existing depth at cornerback. However, Newsome’s skill set should be conducive to early production, regardless.
Newsome’s range is dependent on how teams view his injury history. With his tantalizing physical upside and innate instincts, there is a chance he could sneak into Round 1 (NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah slotted Newsome at 21st overall in his mid-February mock). If he doesn’t, he’s a great pick on Day 2.
In that early-round range, teams like the Colts, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals, and Broncos all project as excellent fits for Newsome. But even beyond that, he has a skill set that should be enticing to most teams in need of more security at cornerback. The Northwestern cornerback has largely been slept on throughout the offseason thus far. That needs to change.
Newsome is a complete cornerback prospect, with all the traits necessary to produce and thrive in the NFL.
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