NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Illinois DI Jer'Zhan Newton

2T74W9A CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 11: Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton (4) during a college football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and Illinois Fighting Illini on November 11, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

The 2024 NFL Draft is fast approaching. The PFF big board is live, mock draft season is in full swing and the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine has wrapped up.

This year’s defensive line class features a wide variety of skill sets and many potential impact players. UCLA’s Laiatu Latu and Alabama’s Dallas Turner headline the edge defender group, while Texas’ Byron Murphy II and Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton provide high-end talent along the interior.

Let's look at Illinois Jer’Zhan Newton, who was named the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year in 2023.


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SCOUTING SUMMARY

Newton is listed at only 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, but he often makes up for it in quickness. Few pass-rushers get off blocks better than him. He likes to win by getting his hands on a blocker and using a push-pull or arm-over.

He brings a wide variety of pass-rush moves and counters. In run defense, he shoots his hands up and in and throws linemen aside after getting them off-balance. If he does not immediately win, he can get controlled at his lower weight.

His high run-defense grades come more from gap shooting than from holding the line, and he does not hold up consistently against double teams.

Click here to see Jer'Zhan Newton's 2024 NFL Draft profile!

WINS ABOVE AVERAGE

WAA represents the number of wins a player is worth over an average college football player and is a metric evaluators can utilize to assess performance.

It combines how well a player performed in each facet of play (using PFF grades) and how valuable each facet is to winning football games. The result is a first-of-its-kind metric that allows for cross-positional valuation and predicts future value at the player and team levels.

Newton’s Wins Above Average (WAA) since 2020.

HOW NEWTON RANKS IN THE STABLE METRICS

PFF pass-rush grade is one of the most stable measures of play, as it isolates a pass-rusher’s ability to win, how quickly he wins and how well he finishes plays.

The quicker the rusher defeats the blocker, the higher his grade will be. And given the hundreds of one-on-one interactions over a given season, this grade is very stable from year to year.

PFF pass-rush grade is strong on its own, but we can also use it to gauge performance in “must pass” situations.

Pressure percentage and win percentage are also strong measures of play and are far better than just using sack totals to evaluate a pass-rusher’s performance.

PFF run-defense grade is also very stable from year to year, while run-stop percentage is a good measure of playmaking in the run game.

Newton’s percentile ranks in the most stable defensive stats since 2020.

Newton has been a solid pass-rusher along the interior and has really developed his game over the last two years. Over the last two seasons, he recorded 102 pressures — including 12 sacks — for a pass-rush win rate of 14.9%. He earned a 90.9 PFF grade on true pass rushes over that time, ninth among players at the position.

The Illinois defender will provide immense value to an NFL team's run defense, as he has thrived in that aspect in college. Newton generated a 29.8% positively graded run play rate (with just an 8.8% negatively graded play rate) in his impressive 2022 campaign.

BOTTOM LINE FROM PFF's 2024 NFL DRAFT GUIDE

Newton has some physical limitations due to his size and lack of natural flexibility, but his hand usage, pass-rush tools and block-shedding ability allow him to be very productive in any alignment as a three-to-five-technique player.

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