Was Greg Newsome II a good pick for the Browns?
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After months of research, analysis, and speculation, after dozens of mock drafts and reading mocks from the experts, the NFL Draft has finally come to a close. The Cleveland Browns walked away with arguably one of the best all-around performances in the draft. Of course, that accolade is solely based on a list of names; the true testament to how well the Browns performed in the draft will play out when these new players actually suit up and get on the field.
Thursday night opened with hours of waiting for Browns fans. Cleveland didn’t select until Pick 26, and with teams like the Jaguars taking what felt like 12 minutes on a 10-minute clock, the hours wore on as we speculated all night about who the Browns would take. We hosted our first-annual Live Draft Night Party, providing coverage throughout the first round. “Trade up!” the fans in the live chat cried. “Go get JOK (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah)!”
And the speculations continued. Odd picks by teams like the Raiders and Broncos pushed quarterbacks and other skill players down the board. The edge rushers tumbled, so naturally our minds settled on the obvious fact the Browns were taking one of the players we’d analyzed so heavily. During our analysis, we kept saying the Browns needed to focus on edge rusher and cornerback. Jaycee Horn was the first cornerback taken, followed closely by Patrick Surtain II. Caleb Farley was taken a little later on.
Before our live coverage began, Justin told the rest of us that he’d been reading all day that Browns General Manager Andrew Berry had his sights set on Greg Newsome II, cornerback from Northwestern. He’d even read that Berry was contemplating a big trade up to get Newsome. And also, throughout the entire draft season, DawgsByNature.com staff writer and recurring podcast guest Barry Shuck constantly linked Greg Newsome to Cleveland with the 26th pick. So while we may not have been overly ecstatic right away, we knew it was a strong possibility that Newsome would be the guy.
WHY WE’RE LOW ON NEWSOME
Now, during our draft analysis, Newsome was not one of the cornerbacks we recommended for the Browns. While Pro Football Focus (PFF) had Newsome ranked as the 3rd-overall corner in the class, they also tagged him with a 3rd-round draft grade. The major question marks for Newsome revolved around the level of competition he faced, his physicality, and his injury history. He missed 8 games with an ankle injury in 2018, followed by 3 missed in games in each of the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also exited the 2020 Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State after just 17 plays with a groin injury. If you’re wondering how the math shakes out, Newsome only played in 21 college games during his 3 seasons at Northwestern.
Continuing the injury discussion, it’s important to remember who the other Browns cornerbacks are. You have Denzel “Hospital” Ward (you can thank Blake for that gem), and Greedy Williams, who you might have forgotten even played for the Browns. Adding a third player riddled with injury history to an already oft-crippled cornerback group is risky.
WHY WE’RE HIGH ON NEWSOME
But when he is on the field, Greg Newsome II is an excellent pass defender. In 2020, PFF shows Newsome was targeted 15 times on passes 10 yards or deeper, giving up just one catch. Receivers were targeted 34 times on his watch, and he allowed just 12 catches (35%), a passer rating of just 31.7, 93 yards and no touchdowns. So without saying any names, if you told us the Browns were going to sit at 26 and draft a cornerback who, through 6 games in 2020, allowed under 100 total yards and zero touchdowns, we would’ve ushered Andrew Berry into the Hall of Fame that night.
And how do Newsome’s stats relate to his maturation at the position? As a freshman, Newsome played 6 games, but he allowed 25 receptions on 33 targets for a passer rating of 148.9, 349 yards and 4 touchdowns. Flash forward two years later, and you can clearly see how much he perfected his game (just look at the passer rating drop from 148.9 way down to 31.7). In 2020, Newsome’s overall coverage grade (per PFF) was 83.8. Compare that to Jaycee Horn’s rating of 78.0 and Patrick Surtain’s rating of 88.6, and it’s clear Newsome belongs in the conversation with the top cornerbacks in this draft class.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While injury history is always concerning, this is the NFL, and players get hurt all the time. It’s a brutal, physical sport, and human bodies will always suffer the consequences of the impact on the field. We watched the Browns suffer from shallow depth at the cornerback position in 2020 when injuries tallied up between Ward and Williams, and we desperately needed more quality players in that role. So while injury history is a cause for pause, the selection of Greg Newsome II adds high efficiency, skill, and competitiveness to our defense. The Browns sat at 26 and
drafted stole one of the top cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.