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Greg Newsome II ready to 'give my all to Cleveland,' prove himself as top cornerback of 2021 draft class

Greg Newsome didn't expect to fall to pick No. 26 when he sat down with family, friends and former coaches eager to see where he'd land Thursday night in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Newsome, who entered the draft as one of the top cornerbacks of the class after three seasons at Northwestern, believed he was the best available.

And he wasn't just talking about cornerback.

"With my confidence, I think I should have gone to Jacksonville at No. 1," Newsome said in a video call with local reporters minutes after his selection. "That is just how confident I am as a player. There are a lot of great players out here, but that is kind of what I have always held myself to."

Pick No. 26, of course, belonged to the Cleveland Browns, who didn't hesitate to grab Newsome as soon as they were on the clock after watching several defensive players slip later than mocked. The 2021 draft was the first draft ever that featured no defensive players in the first seven picks.

That made Newsome stir with anxiety as he watched with his draft party from a fitness center in Oak Brook, Illinois.

It also made the Browns front office stir with excitement as they climbed closer and closer to grabbing a player they think will thrive in their defense for years to come.

"He was one of the guys we targeted throughout the draft process that we think really fits our profile at the Cleveland Browns," Executive Vice President of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry said. "We by no means were sure (if he'd be available), but obviously, we were pretty happy to take him once we knew he was going to be available. He fits that tough, smart, accountable that we want from the players we bring into the building."

Newsome, meanwhile, is confident that Cleveland drafted the best cornerback of the class.

"I still believe that I am the best corner in the draft," he said. "Obviously, Cleveland picked me for a reason. I can't wait to get to Cleveland and get ready to work."

The work for Newsome will consist of joining a cornerback class that now features talent, youth and depth — which is never easy to find in the NFL.

He'll join Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and free-agent signee Troy Hill in the competition for starting snaps. Newsome will have no guarantees for a starting position in what will now likely be one of the most competitive position battles of training camp.

And Newsome can't wait. 

"All of those guys are studs," Newsome said. "I love going into rooms that are just competitive. That is something I live for."

While Newsome will have to prove himself once he steps onto the grass in Berea, his college resume suggests he'll be able to adjust to the NFL level rather quickly.

Newsome was one of the best cornerbacks in all of college football in 2020. He led the Big Ten with 10 passes defensed and one interception in six games and was selected as First Team All-Big Ten. He also allowed just .44 yards per coverage snap, which was the lowest of any cornerback in the 2021 draft class, according to Pro Football Focus. 

His blend of speed and football IQ — scouts and analysts raved about his ability to glue to receivers in coverage — make him ripe to be an immediate contributor. 

But even though Newsome believes he's the best cornerback of the class, he knows that he faces a long path to earning his role with the defense in his rookie season.

"Do I think that coach is just giving me the job? No way," he said. "I'm going to have to come in there and definitely work. It's a talented, talented room. I have to go in there and prove myself every day."

The draft slide for Newsome is over. But without it, the Browns wouldn't have been able to select a player they weren't sure would still be on the board.

Newsome won't forget about his slide, but he also won't forget about the phone call he received from the Browns when he found out where he belonged.

"I am just ready to give my all to Cleveland every single day and that fan base," he said.

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