The narrative throughout Aaron Rodgers‘ career is that the Green Bay Packers’ defense lets him down in the postseason. There is some statistical evidence to support it, although the premise is exaggerated. Green Bay’s current defense has bona fide studs up and down the roster with Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage. New defensive coordinator Joe Barry doesn’t have to start from scratch; he just has to elevate the unit to the next level.
The Packers opted to re-sign cornerback Kevin King this offseason. Skeptical fans and analysts pointed out King’s injury history and the disaster that followed when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked on him in the NFC Championship game. Nonetheless, he’s back in green and gold, but he’s just a Band-Aid on a situation that requires stitching up. Alexander already puts opposing wide receivers on an island; now it’s time to draft Greg Newsome II in the first round to complete what could turn out to be a terrifying cornerback duo.
Newsome is your classic Big Ten player who came out of high school as a seldom-talked-about three-star recruit. He ended up at Northwestern and, by the time he left, he looked like a five-star player. Newsome really burst onto the scene last year and catapulted himself toward the top of the cornerback draft class. Newsome may be gone by the time the Packers select at No. 29 overall, but if he isn’t, they should take a serious look at him.
Newsome is excellent at diagnosing what’s going on out on the field, and he has top-notch coverage instincts. Scouts call him “feisty.” Does that remind you of any other cornerback on the roster? Newsome has top-shelf ball skills and the confidence to line up against any receiver.
Quarterbacks began to shy away from wherever Newsome lined up last year — he got that good. Newsome such fluid hips when dropping back, yet he can close on a ball carrier and make a physical tackle in the snap of a finger. He’s begun to crack the top tier of corners in this draft class, which for the most part has consisted of Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, and Asante Samuel Jr.
Can you imagine a secondary that features Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, and then a young Greg Newsome II, who appears to at minimum have a very high floor? You’d be hard-pressed not to succeed with that group.
Newsome’s aforementioned “floor and ceiling” talk has led to interesting dialogue among scouts and analysts. Of course, every prospect has their weaknesses, and Newsome is no different. While his 40 time was fine (4.39 at his pro day), some question his vertical speed with routes that develop down the field. It’s not as though Newsome was getting consistently burned in those situations, but there is a belief that he doesn’t maximize his speed on deeper routes that open up vertically.
His durability is an even more pressing concern. In 2018, Newsome missed eight games with an ankle injury in his first season at Northwestern. Two years ago, he missed three games due to injury and missed the same amount this past year with a groin injury. As the saying goes, availability is often the best ability, and Newsome has been nicked up over his college career.
Some prospects carry a higher risk, which makes people think in terms of boom or bust. Newsome flat-out defies this binary thinking. His skillset, matched with his instincts, football IQ, and confidence outweighs the small red flags that pop up in the form of past injuries and vertical speed downfield. Newsome is a locked-in first-round pick in this NFL Draft.
Green Bay has plenty of options this week. If Newsome falls to No. 29, it could be quite the gift for a Packers defense that has the potential to become a top-five unit next year.