The New Orleans Saints defense ranked 5th in the league against the pass, their highest ranking since 2013. Their 18 interceptions was the most in the NFL, and more than they've had since their Super Bowl championship season of 2009. A stifling pass rush was partly responsible for the lofty defensive ranking, but the Saints also boasted one of the league's more talented secondaries.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore solidified his spot among the NFL's best defensive backs, earning his third Pro Bowl berth in four seasons. Lattimore intercepted 2 passes, broke up 11 others, allowed less than 52% completion percentage when targeted, and routinely shuts down the league's best wideouts.
Outside of Lattimore, a huge need was created at the position when the Saints had to release veteran CB Janoris Jenkins for salary cap reasons. New Orleans is expected to address this spot with one of their early draft choices among a deep class of cornerbacks.
The Saints currently have four selections in the draft's first two days, but don't pick until the 28th pick of the first round. They have had great success with drafting players from Big 10 powers Ohio State and Wisconsin in recent years, including Ohio State's Lattimore with the 11th overall selection in 2017.
New Orleans could turn to another Big 10 program for another defensive star with their 1st round choice this season.
GREG NEWSOME II, CORNERBACK (NORTHWESTERN)
6’1” 192-Lbs (Pro Day 40m dash = 4.38)
NFL.com comparison (Lance Zierlein):
Darius Slay (Eagles)
Newsome left his hometown of Chicago to play at IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year of high school. He chose a college close to home in Northwestern, playing six games as a freshman and starting four, but missing time with injuries.
The injury bug struck Newsome again during his sophomore season of 2019. He still started eight contests, leading Northwestern with 11 passes broken up.
A COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 Big 10 season to just eight regular season games. Newsome again led his team with 7 passes broken up and recorded his only career interception. He finished his Northwestern career with 1 interception, a fumble recovery, 1 tackle for loss, and 20 passes broken up in 21 games played.
The games missed with several nagging injuries are Newsome's only major deterrent for most critics. He has a slight build, which has contributed to some of his injuries because of his physical style of play.
Newsome's reaction time to a developing play in front of him can be a bit slow at times, partially due to lack of playing experience to hone his instincts. His aggressive play can also lead to penalties, and he has difficulty disengaging from blockers as a run defender.
Newsome was one of the most respected defensive backs in the Big 10. He is equally effective in press coverage, off-man responsibilities, or zone schemes. His nimble backpedal and smooth change of direction allows him to adjust to any route quickly, and he has the speed to stay with any receiver.
According to Pro Football Focus, Newsome allowed less than 32% completion percentage when targeted in 2020. His man coverage skills make him a potential lock down corner for any team that drafts him.
He has excellent technique and adjusts well to the ball in the air. His ability to stay with the Big 10's best receivers made him rarely targeted by quarterbacks, yet he maintained the motivation to remain sharp.
Newsome was considered a late-1st round selection early in the offseason. His ability to be equally effective from the outside or in the slot will make him an immediate contributor to any defense.
After displaying explosive athleticism during his Pro Day, his stock is now risen to the level of a top-25 selection. For a New Orleans team looking to fill a big need at cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore, Greg Newsome could be on their radar if they look to move up in the 1st round.