CLEVELAND (AP) – Confidence was one of the many attributes the Browns admired most when they met with Greg Newsome II.
He lacks none. Zero.
Even after Newsome was the fourth cornerback taken in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, the Northwestern standout wasn’t satisfied.
“I still believe I’m the best cornerback in the draft,” he said.
Beyond that, Newsome believes he was the best player.
“If I’m not the first pick in the draft,” he said, “everyone made a mistake.”
Adding another piece to a defense they’ve overhauled this offseason, the Browns selected Newsome with the No. 26 overall pick, taking him over some other quality defensive players who were still available after a historic run on quarterbacks and skill players.
With thousands of Cleveland fans on hand to hear Commissioner Roger Goodell make the announcement outside FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns took the 6-foot, 190-pound Newsome, who will likely compete for a starting job this summer.
Cleveland was in the market for another cornerback to pair with Denzel Ward, a first-round pick in 2018 and former Pro Bowler, and believe Newsome can have an early impact.
“We thought he was one of the more well-rounded corners in the class,” Browns general manager Andrew Berry said. “Obviously, he has the size and the speed that every team wants at the position, but here’s a guy that played press effectively, they played a heavy dose of zone and off-man at Northwestern, which he was able to do effectively and make some plays on the ball.
“What we liked is that from our perspective there wasn’t a major discernible hole within his skill set.”
The Browns don’t know if projected 2020 starter Greedy Williams will be ready this year after he missed last season with a shoulder injury suffered in training camp. But Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski said Newsome’s selection has nothing to do with Williams.
“Really this pick has no reflection or bearing on Greedy,” Berry said. “From our perspective, cornerback is a group where we want to be deep and we want to have a lot of guys that can cover.”
Newsome, who will only turn 21 next month, had 71 tackles, 25 passes defensed and an interception in 21 games for the Wildcats. He earned All-Big Ten honors in 2020 and was rated as one of the nation’s top defensive backs.
He’s joining a secondary in Cleveland that improved this winter with the signings of free agent safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill, who mostly plays in the slot.
“I know that I’m walking into a very competitive room,” he said. “All those guys are studs. It’s going to be a secondary with a lot of swagger.”
Newsome said there were some nerves as he watched the draft unfold along with 50 family members and friends at a fitness center outside Chicago.
“You become impatient just a little bit. I was expecting to go a little bit higher, so I was sitting there a little nervous,” he said. “It was a great night and I’m looking forward to getting to Cleveland.”
Cleveland’s draft day started early for Berry as he and his wife, Brittan, welcomed their third child in the morning. Eden Ruth Berry weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces – and will be getting a lifetime contract.
Berry understandably looked and sounded tired on a Zoom call.
“I’m running on pure adrenaline right now,” he said.
The birth in the Berry household was perhaps another good omen for the Browns, who have been reborn.
After ending its nearly two-decades-old postseason drought last season and winning a playoff game for the first time since 1994, Cleveland picked 26th in the first round – the team’s lowest spot in any year in which it didn’t make a trade since returning as an expansion team in 1999.
Expectations have rarely been higher for the Browns or their fans, who have long considered the draft as their Super Bowl. Those days are over.
As he prepared for his second draft as Cleveland’s top football executive, Berry said last week he would approach this year’s selections with “the mindset of trying to really maximize the long-term impact of our roster.”
The focus, at least in the first two rounds, was expected to remain on the defense, which was revamped by Berry in free agency with the signing of edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney to pair with All-Pro Myles Garrett.
There are other holes to fill and depth to be added for the Browns, who entered the draft with nine picks, including two in the third round.
“For round one, to get a player of this caliber, it’s an exciting time for us,” Stefanski said.