Eagles Draft Profile: CB Greg Newsome II
Weight: 190 pounds
Strengths: High IQ zone defender, smooth technique and footwork, long arms, very disruptive at catch point
Weaknesses: Smaller frame, lack of vertical speed on tape, no elite competition faced in 2020
Draft Projection: Early to Middle 2nd Round
The Eagles cornerbacks went through some severe growing pains last season. According to PFF, the unit recorded the NFL’s fourth-lowest coverage grade in 2020, with Darius Slay ranking as their highest-graded player (63.1). Offseason acquisition Nickell Robey-Coleman turned out to be a complete bust, giving up the most passing yards on the team (533) plus an absurd 82.1 catch percentage when targeted (46 catches allowed on 56 targets). After the team shipped Sidney Jones to Jacksonville, Avonte Maddox assumed the starting position opposite Darius Slay and delivered some lackluster results. The third-year Pittsburgh product allowed over 13 yards per reception and a staggering 102.7 passer rating when targeted. At 5-foot-9, Maddox seems like a better fit as a subpackage cornerback but still offers valuable versatility in the secondary moving forward.
Unless Cre’Von LeBlanc comes back on an extremely team-friendly deal this offseason, the Eagles’ top five cornerbacks consist of Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Craig James, Michael Jacquett, and Grayland Arnold. That group doesn’t inspire too much confidence to rebound from last year’s sub-par performance. Howie and company likely won’t bring in a serviceable free agent due to their current cap fiasco, making it even more important to draft a potential starter with an early-round pick. Assuming they go with an offensive player at six overall, the front office’s next logical position of need would be at cornerback or linebacker. One of my favorite cornerback prospects who’s flown under the radar so far in the draft process is Northwestern’s Greg Newsome.
Considered a 3-star recruit out of IMG Academy in Florida, Newsome improved his game in every season for the Wildcats. As a true freshman, he gave up 25 receptions on 33 pass attempts (75%), four touchdowns, and a 148.9 passer rating when targeted. In the same number of coverage snaps during his junior year, Newsome only allowed 12 receptions on 34 targets (35.3%), zero touchdowns, and a lowly 31.7 passer rating when targeted. Opposing quarterbacks would have finished with a better passer rating (39.6) if they threw the ball away on every down rather than test Northwestern’s lockdown cornerback last season.
Newsome has the athleticism, length, and versatility to play in any coverage scheme at the next level. The 6-foot-1 defensive back has an excellent understanding of route concepts and displayed excellent awareness in Northwestern’s zone-heavy coverage scheme. His explosive short-range burst allows him to anticipate and jump receivers’ routes while using those long arms to contest the catch point from any angle. Newsome’s fluid hip-flipping ability lets him comfortably shadow receivers without falling behind on vertical routes. Still, his top-end speed remains a question mark because of how little he was targeted downfield. During his 2020 season, the Northwestern cornerback allowed just one reception with four forced incompletions on 15 targets of throws over 10 yards.
There aren’t many glaring holes in Greg Newsome’s game other than a lack of turnover production and experience against top-tier competition. Although he weighs nearly 190 pounds, Newsome’s smaller frame could be an issue against NFL wide receivers. He struggles to get off blocks defending the run and occasionally finds himself on the wrong side of a box-out against bigger receivers. Additionally, his injury history will be another small area of concern. While he never suffered a significant injury at Northwestern, Newsome didn’t complete a full season for the Wildcats in his three years due to varying ailments.
Despite not being labeled as one of the premier cornerbacks in this year’s class, the First Team All Big Ten cornerback has all the physical traits to be a productive Day Two pick. Newsome’s growth as a lockdown defender for Northwestern is a testament to his steady work ethic and willingness to develop his game. With Darius Slay under contract for the next two seasons, it seems appropriate to address the cornerback spot across from him with a pick in the first three rounds. The NFL remains a pass-first league, and Slay has shown that he’s one of the most successful man-coverage corners in today’s game. Bringing in an intelligent prospect like Greg Newsome who can learn and study under Slay would not only benefit the secondary in the short term but secure a position of need for years to come.
Mandatory Credit: AP Photo | Tony Avelar