For the Never a Running Back in the First Round crowd, it might sting to read about cornerback Greg Newsome II, the cornerback out of Northwestern who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns just a short time after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Najee Harris. No doubt he was one of the top players fans were hoping they might select, given the need at the position.
But he’d better start picking off more passes as he transitions from the college level to the pros in order to justify his draft position, because he only nabbed one pass during his time at Northwestern. That’s not particularly remarkable for a mid-round pick, let alone a first-rounder. But he had something to say about that after the draft.
“A lot of people say my hands are bricks, which is not true at all. I am going to tell you, I can catch the football”, he said. “I played receiver my whole career. I had a bunch of picks in high school, but for some reason, I just was not getting them in college. I am going to turn that around”.
While he only recorded one interception, which came last year, he did also accumulate 20 passes defensed in just 18 collegiate starts. He did miss a good amount of time each year of his collegiate career, at least three in every season. But the Browns aren’t worried about that. And Newsome isn’t worried about his hands, which he’s working on.
“Now on a serious note, I definitely missed some out there. There were sometimes where I just did not trust my eyes necessarily and go out there and make the play”, he admitted. “There are some things I am doing right now in this offseason to help me get better at some things and get better at playing the deep ball. I am just trying to perfect my craft just so when I get here to Cleveland, I am not just getting pass breakups. I am trying to be a game-changer and being able to change the momentum of the game entirely”.
Intercepting passes is actually one problem the Steelers have not had, recording 38 of them over the course of the past two seasons. They finished second in the league with 20 in 2019, and then first in 2020 with 18.
The same can’t necessarily be said for the Browns. They did finish in the top 10 in 2019 with 14 picks as a defense, but had only 11 this past season, placing them in the bottom half of the league. Of course, they also were minus multiple starters.
Newsome is just one piece of a significantly restocked secondary, which includes the free agent signings of John Johnson and Troy Hill, and the return of injured starters (or projected starters) in Greedy Williams and Grand Delpit, a rookie last year who did not play.