2021 NFL draft prospects: Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II

Eric Edholm
·5-min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

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.

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 14: Northwestern Wildcats defensive back Greg Newsome II (2) and Purdue Boilermakers tight end Payne Durham (87) battle for a pass during the college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Northwestern Wildcats on November 14, 2020, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II, right, made several eye-opening plays in coverage in 2020. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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