MENTOR — Greg Newsome II expected Cam Mitchell to be drafted much earlier over the weekend but believes the landing spot is ideal.
For Mitchell and the Browns.
Newsome and Mitchell have known each other since they were kids in the Chicago area and were reunited for the first time at Northwestern University. Newsome recognizes Mitchell’s talent and the well-established cornerback room he’s entering.
“He has a great opportunity in front of him,” Newsome said Monday night at the Girls High School Flag Football Championship. “He has a loaded room where it is a bunch of talent where he can learn and truly develop.
“I just said, ‘Let’s go. It’s starting right now.’ I was just ready for him to get to Cleveland.”
Newsome called Mitchell (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) moments after he was drafted Saturday in the fifth round, No. 142 overall. The Browns didn’t have a pressing need at cornerback but place a premium on the position and saw good value in Mitchell — a two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention who led the Wildcats with 10 passes defensed last season.
He joins starters Denzel Ward and Newsome, top backup Martin Emerson Jr. — who had a strong rookie season as a third-round pick — A.J. Green, Thomas Graham Jr. and free agent signee Mike Ford, who’s an ace special teamer.
“We’re loaded,” Newsome said. “The good thing about it is we got different guys, different sizes, different abilities. So I feel like we’re a matchup nightmare for any team out there. We got bigger guys, we got smaller guys, we got shifiter, so we got a whole, great group in it.”
Newsome became frustrated last year with his role under coordinator Joe Woods, who was fired after the season. Newsome insisted he never wanted to be traded, but he didn’t like how much he was used in a run-stopping “linebacker” role while in the slot.
Veteran coordinator Jim Schwartz replaced Woods and has made a strong first impression, including the emphasis he places on cornerbacks.
“Super excited,” Newsome said. “He tells our D-line every single day: These guys are playing the hardest position in the whole professional sports industry, so make sure you guys get to the quarterback.
“He just brings confidence. First day he came in here, he told us he didn’t come here for the D-line — and obviously we have a great D-line — but he came here because this potentially could be the best group of secondary players he’s ever had. So I think that speaks volumes to him and he has a bunch of confidence in us.”
Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. sees a special secondary group.
“It makes it easy to play Madden with our defensive backs,” he said. “I feel like we can cover anybody. Those guys have the ultimate confidence. The speed, the competitiveness, that’s what you got to have at that level.
“And we got five, six, seven guys that — I’m just going off the top of my head — that I know got the dog in them that they need to play that position. That’s the hardest position on the field. I always said that. And those guys are able to do it at a very high level.”
The most notable offseason change to the secondary was cutting starting free safety John Johnson III and replacing him with Juan Thornhill, a free agent from the Chiefs who signed a three-year, $21 million contract. Green was brought back on a one-year deal, then Mitchell was drafted.
The Browns believe he has the ability to play outside, in the slot and on special teams.
“He has some of the best feet that I’ve honestly seen, in the NFL, college, and then obviously it’s just mindset,” Newsome said of Mitchell’s best qualities. “He has that same mindset as me. He wants to win. He wants the best all the time.”
Mitchell’s confidence was on display when general manager Andrew Berry called to tell him the Browns were drafting him. Berry asked if he was better than Newsome.
“You ask me any day of the week I’d give you the same answer,” Mitchell said.
— Greg Newsome II (@gnewsii) April 29, 2023
“That’s his mindset going into every single game,” Newsome said. “His best ball’s ahead of him. He has a lot of potential. So I’m super excited to get a chance to mentor him around and show him the ropes at the NFL.”
Mitchell understands he’s walking into a good situation.
“I know the room is going to be deep and I’m going to have to come in and be ready to learn and ready to work,” he said.