Welcome back to our series on the Green Bay Packers draft. This is aimed at getting you ready for the 2021 class before Brian Gutkunst and Co. make selections. We take a look at the kinds of players the Packers tend to like at positions of need. That way you’re ready when they make a pick.
Jaire Alexander. That was the first name Greg Newsome II mentioned when asked by NFL Network’s Stacy Dales which cornerbacks he watches in the NFL. He also mentioned Richard Sherman and Jalen Ramsey. This happened to come after he blistered a 40-yard dash in the 4.3s, eliminating any questions about his long speed assuming such things existed.
In a league obsessed with press man cornerbacks, Newsome name checked three guys who excel in zone coverage. One plays in Green Bay, where his playmaking shines covering space, one could be in play as a free agent for the Packers and played primarily Cover-3 in his career as one of the best corners of his generation, and one played on Brandon Staley’s defense last season. Or should I say Joe Barry’s defense?
“I think I’m the best cornerback in the draft,” Newsome told Dales, but what he said next must have really perked the antennae for Brian Gutekunst and Berry.
“Whether that’s play Cover-4, man, or Cover-3, I think my coverage versatility makes me one of the best corners if not the best corner in the draft. I think the sky’s the limit for me.”
Let’s see, Cover-4, the coverage no one ran more than the Rams last season? That Cover-4? Cover-3? As in the coverage the Rams and Packers played most often last season? And man is something every cornerback must be able to play, even in zone-heavy schemes because the red zone and 3rd-and-short remain primary man downs.
To not only mention Jaire Alexander, but to put Cover-4 first, one could be forgiven for wondering if he were campaigning to join the Packers, a team who will prize coverage versatility in Berry’s scheme, will play a ton of Cover-4 and Cover-3, and could use a player like Newsome.
If he’s the best cornerback in the draft, why isn’t he a lock as a first-round pick? Injuries play a critical role, with Newsome logging just over 700 cover snaps in his 17 career games. Other corners in the class boast well over 1,000.
Still, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Newsome allowed an in impressive 31.7 passer rating when targeted in 2020, earning an 83.8 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus (82.3 in man and 85 in zone) and making him one of the highest-graded players at the position this year. It’s not hard to see why when you allow just 35.3% completion when targeted.
Newsome met with the Packers earlier this spring, and it’s worth noting that ex-NFL cornerback Eric Crocker told me on Locked on Packers he believed Newsome to be the most well-rounded corner in the draft. He added he believed that Newsome is such a good fit for the Packers, they should trade up for him if they have the chance.
Here’s our full scouting report on Newsome.
- Lanky CB
- Easy mover with explosive athleticism
- Explodes to the ball
- Click-and-close with burst
- Played from an array of alignments, from press man to off-zone
- Sticky in coverage and has the movement skills to do it against myriad receiver types
- So smooth in his pedal
- One of the better tacklers in this draft
- Attacks the ball in the air
- Shows pretty good ball skills overall
- Shows the ability to read and react from off coverage
- His feet are so good for his size
- Contests passes at the catch point
- He can play press if you want him to
- The injuries are going to be a question for him
- The weird thing is there’s not that much film on him because no one throws at him
- Limited sample size
- Missed critical touchstone games like Auburn and Ohio State which would have told us a lot about his ability to consistently face top competition and play in big games.
There’s not a ton of recent tape on Newsome and the injuries are going to dog him. Pure talent and athleticism are not a question. If he played every 2020 game, he might just be a top-20 lock. But he didn’t, so he’s not. He’s tall, lanky, aggressive, smart, and feisty. He will drive you into the dirt on a tackle and fight with you at the catch point. I love the demeanor and swagger he plays with, plus he blew away his Pro Day with a low 4.3’s 40. If he can stay healthy, he can be a really good player. A little bit of a boom-or-bust player because of the injury risk and sample size, but the upside is huge.
In the late first round for a team like the Packers, this is a no-brainer. Some fans will wonder about drafting another playing with an injury history, but Newsome pointed out at his Pro Day, some of his injuries were fluky. It hasn’t sapped any of his athleticism to this point and because he’s so smart and plays physically, even if he lost a little, unlike Kevin King his game could age gracefully.
From a fit standpoint, no cornerback may be more prepared to step in right away and play for the Packers. Given what he’s been saying in the run up to the draft, he might believe that as well.