Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II has been a late-riser up the 2021 NFL draft board despite a strong resume of quality play during his three seasons of significant action for the Wildcats. Newsome II solidified his high draft grade with a stellar performance at his pro day and will be one of the first, if not the first cornerback off the board in April.
Newsome II’s career at Northwestern began after a strong high school career that included two stops. Newsome II played his sophomore and junior seasons at Glenbard High School before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida for his final year. A three-star prospect, Newsome II received 23 scholarship offers, including from impressive ivy league schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Clearly, he’s a smart dude.
Newsome II earned four starts during his freshman season (appeared in six games) and ended his first year of college ball with 23 tackles and four pass breakups. In 2019, Newsome II started eight games (appeared in nine) and finished second in the Big Ten with 11 pass breakups. This past season, Newsome II appeared in six games and recorded the first interception of his college career. In total, Newsome II had 71 tackles, one tackle for loss, and one interception as a Wildcat.
It’s worth noting Newsome II’s injury history. He missed time with an ankle issue in 2018, an ‘undisclosed’ injury in 2019, and a groin in 2020.
Physically, Newsome II looks the part of an NFL corner. He measured in at 6-foot, 190 pounds at his pro day and presents with a lean yet muscular frame. He isn’t the most physically imposing coverage corner, but he certainly has enough mass to mix it up with bigger NFL wideouts.
Athletically, Newsome is a smooth mover. His backpedal is efficient, his hips are loose, and his ability to reach top speed in a hurry is a big plus. He ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at his pro day and registered a 40-inch vertical jump; both results are evidence of his combination of explosive ability and high-end straight-line speed.
Newsome II is a scheme-diverse cornerback who can play effectively in man and zone coverages. His change-of-direction ability is top-notch and allows him to mirror receivers through their route and to the catch point. He isn’t a panicky defender; he doesn’t flip and run too early in the route and has the kind of football sense and overall IQ that defensive coordinators will appreciate. Newsome II is physical at the catch point, too, and has enough strength to win contested situations. He didn’t fill the stat sheet with interceptions during his college career which, in part, is due to his limited sample size of games (21 total games).
Against the run, Newsome II displays the necessary toughness and disregard for his body that well-rounded cornerbacks possess. While not the greatest finisher, he’ll do enough in run support to be more of an asset than a liability. He has the kind of swagger you like to see from top-tier cornerbacks, too. If he makes a big hit, you’re going to know about it.
Overall, Newsome II is a quality cornerback who is a high-floor prospect. His ceiling may not be on par with Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech), but he profiles as a safer pick. Teams looking to hit a home run on the next great cornerback may not think Newsome II is their guy, and it’s understandable. But clubs that are in need of a quality rookie starter will target Newsome II in Round 1. His intelligence, athleticism, body type, and high motor create a strong foundation to build off of assuming he can stay healthy as a pro.
GRADE: 7.9 (late-1st, early-2nd round)