While general manager Brian Gutekunst re-signed free agent Kevin King and tendered restricted free agent Chandon Sullivan, the Green Bay Packers enter this draft with a pronounced need at cornerback.
King has played only 52 percent of the defensive snaps in his four seasons. After a strong 2019 season, King regressed in 2020. But at least he played. Josh Jackson, a second-round pick in 2018, and Ka’dar Hollman, a sixth-round pick in 2019, weren’t even on the gameday roster in the playoffs. Taking a longer-range view, King will be a free agent again next offseason, as will Jackson and Sullivan. Those factors make getting a cornerback or two a priority in this draft.
Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II is our No. 4-ranked cornerback.
Get to Know Greg Newsome II
Mom, as they say, knows best.
That was the case for Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II, one of the top cornerback prospects in this year’s NFL Draft.
“Growing up, I played basketball, ran track, played volleyball and obviously played football,” he said at Northwestern’s pro day. “Being a kid from Chicago, I thought I was the best basketball player there was. But with choosing football, it was put in front of me. I knew the opportunities football would afford me. There are more (scholarships) in football. I give all the credit to my mom. When I was in sixth grade, I was playing basketball but 7-on-7 football was just starting up and she just took me out of basketball altogether. I was mad at the time but she chose the right thing for me.”
At Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Ill., Newsome led the state with seven interceptions as a sophomore. As a junior, opponents barely threw his direction. So, as a senior, he transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. – an athletics-based school that plays a national schedule. He was a three-star recruit and the final member of Northwestern’s recruiting class in 2017.
After redshirting in 2017 and missing most of the 2018 season with an ankle injury, Newsome finished second in the Big Ten with 11 pass breakups in 2019. That set the stage for his final season. Playing in six games, Newsome recorded the first interception of his career and led the Big Ten with 10 passes defensed.
“I don’t like seeing receivers catch footballs,” he told The Chicago Tribune.
He didn’t see many receptions. In fact, he broke up as many passes as he allowed receptions, according to Sports Info Solutions. And forget about explosive plays. On passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield, he gave up one completion out of 15 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
“There’s really no secret” to taking away the deep ball, he said at pro day. “Starts with the mentality. I'm a very confident player and, if I eliminate those deep routes, nobody is going to beat us. Just knowing where my help is coming from and my teammates are doing their jobs, I don't want to let the team down. Just trust my technique. Credit to my DB coach, Coach Mac (Matt MacPherson). I don't think there's a secret. Just be confident and be a dog out there.”
For as dominant as he was in 2020, two things will give evaluators pause. One, he had only one career interception. Second, and more importantly, is Newsome’s injury history. He missed eight games in 2018 with an ankle injury and three games in each of the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In his collegiate finale, the Big Ten championship game against Ohio State, he dropped out with a groin injury.
“I’m always going to give it my all,” he told The Draft Network. “I’m never going to take a rep off. You’re also going to get a competitor. I don’t like to lose reps. You can see in my play from this season, I hate giving up any type of passes. I think I gave up too many yards last season even though it was a small amount.
“You’re going to get a guy that’s going to compete every single day. A natural-born leader, I bring guys with me and as a natural-born leader, I expect greatness from my teammates every day. If a teammate is not doing his job, I don’t care if he is a 10-year vet or two-year player, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to hold them accountable.”
Measureables, Stats and Scouting Report
Measureables: 6-foot, 192 pounds, 31 1/8-inch arms. 4.38 40, 4.26 shuttle, 40-inch vertical.
Stats and accolades: Newsome had a breakout 2019 season with 11 passes defensed. The 2020 season was remarkable. Playing only six games (missed three due to injury), he led the Big Ten with 10 passes defensed and was named first-team all-conference. According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed only 10 catches and a 29 percent completion rate. According to SIS, he ranks first in the draft class with 1.4 passes broken up per game, second with 0.9 yards allowed per man-coverage snap and first with 11.9 receiving yards allowed per game. In 21 games (18 starts), his only interception came in 2020. His playing time was relatively evenly split between zone, press and slot.
NFL Draft Bible says: Newsome quickly turned into the best cornerback prospect in the conference. He plays with controlled tempo and pace whether he is in press or away from the line of scrimmage. Excellent eye discipline to let plays develop without being overzealous, exhibiting outstanding reactionary quickness due to trusting what his eyes are seeing. Smooth hips allow him to stay attached with receivers, showing excellent short-area quickness driving routes and playing intermediate routes on a lateral plane. One career interception in 20 career starts is concerning when evaluating his ball skills. He will contend for being one of the first five cornerbacks taken off the board in this draft. Scheme versatile with toughness in run support, he projects as a strong starter at the next level.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft.