During the leadup to every NFL Draft, the media hypes up some prospects who pro teams do not hold in the same high regard. One of those players this year is Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan ‘Johnny’ Newton. Some in the media are projecting him to be picked in the top half of the first round during the 2024 NFL Draft, but multiple NFL team sources told WalterFootball.com that they have Newton lower. Sources from four teams said they had Newton graded in Round 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft.
On the positive side, Newton was a steady interior pass rusher for the Illini over the past two seasons, recording 13 sacks during that time. However, team sources say Newton can get destroyed as a run defender. He also has an odd body type at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds, and many teams want more length and weight on the inside of their defensive lines. Newton is a short, thick and wide defender. Evaluators also said they liked his 2022 tape more and felt that he turned things on and off some as a senior.
Newton could rehab his stock with some strong pre-draft workouts and interviews. It can be very difficult for NFL teams to find interior pass rushers, so that could help Newton to get selected on the opening night of the 2024 NFL Draft. However, a number of teams have graded him in Round 2, so he could slide to Friday night of the draft.