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2024 IDP Rookie Profile – Johnny Newton, DL

The 2023 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year will be on the first defensive linemen drafted. Where does he fit in the NFL and how will he impact your IDP squads?

As a force on the interior, both in stopping the run and getting after the passer, Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton is one of the top interior defensive linemen in the class. He increasingly improved at Illinois despite drawing loads of attention from the opponent’s offensive lines. 

Newton projects best as a 3-tech defensive tackle, lacking the size of a traditional nose tackle. A team could get creative and use him as an end if needed, as he’s got decent bend and pass-rushing moves. 


  • College: Illinois
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 295 lbs. 
  • Age: 21 (August 31, 2002)
  • Year: Senior
  • Draft Projection: Late First Round

College Career

As one of five brothers, four of whom played at the collegiate level, Newton will be the first to play at the NFL level. He was a three-star recruit who gathered in 23 offers to play ball at the collegiate level. A monstrous senior season drew attention, in which he tallied 104 tackles and 16 sacks for Clearwater Central Catholic in Florida. He was a 2019 MaxPreps All-American and spurned powerhouses like Florida, Florida State, and Miami to attend Illinois. 

Defense & Fumbles Table
TackTackTackTackTack Def Def Def Def Def FumbFumbFumbFumb
Year G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF

Newton started two games as a freshman, then followed that up with 11 starts as a redshirt freshman. He had 50 tackles and three sacks, garnering an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. But his 2022 season brought Newton’s name to the forefront and showed he could eventually be an early draft pick. 

As a sophomore, he raked in 62 tackles – 14 for a loss, 5.5 sacks, and eleven hurries. He made the Walter Camp, AP All-American, CBS All-American, and PFF All-American Second Teams and led all P5 interior defensive linemen with 59 pressures, per PFF. 

Newton would return to Illinois and build upon his already impressive resume. He made the All-American First Team for many organizations, including AP, CBS, Sports Illustrated, and Phil Steele, amongst countless others. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year with 52 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and four blocked kicks. His 44 pressures were 15 more than any other defensive tackle in the Big Ten. Here’s a link to his impressive resume – I couldn’t even come close to listing them all!


As a Run Defender

As a run defender, Newton is a tough assignment for offensive linemen. He’s strong and comes hard off the line into the face of the linemen, then has the strength to gain control quickly.

If engaged, he peels off violently and tackles in his gap. Newton is smart and disciplined, using leverage when engaged one-on-one, and wins more often than not in those situations. 

In this video, Newton is against an elite offensive line, including 2024 likely first-round Olu Fashanu. He’s nasty in run defense and plays hard every snap. 

As a Pass Rusher

Newton has an impressive array of moves regarding rushing the passer. The motor helps; he is challenging for offensive linemen to stick with as the play progresses. Things may go well for a few seconds, but Newton doesn’t let up. 

This is a longer video, but it showcases some of the array of moves Newton wins with. He has active hands and wins when engaged in a “hand-to-hand” fight. Newton has some bend for an interior guy, showcased when he is asked to rush as an end. He’s got an excellent pass-rush repertoire and can string together moves when engaged. 

Areas of Concern

The size is one of the biggest detriments, and that’s weird to say. Even as a 3-tech, he will be smaller than every offensive lineman he faces on the interior. Sometimes, his base will narrow when he rushes, allowing bigger linemen to hold him up and neutralize his strength. If he’s double-teamed, Newton’s lack of size and arm length really shows this shortcoming.

Newton doesn’t have an elite initial explosion off the snap, at least not consistently. It may flash a few times a game, but it’s not near the level of the elite defensive tackles in the league. 

Draft Profile

There are many teams with a need on the interior, but two I love for Newton are Jacksonville at pick 17 and Dallas at pick 24. I love the Vikings, too, but he likely would not be in the discussion at pick 12 and not there when they choose next. 

The Jaguars desperately need pass-rushing help, and the Cowboys are potentially losing a lot of pieces through free agency and could look to fill a significant need with Newton.

For fantasy, Newton would be enticing in the second round of your IDP rookie drafts. There are at least four or five EDGE guys, several linebackers, and defensive backs to target before attacking the defensive line – even if it’s balanced scoring and DT-required. 

Newton projects as a player with 60 tackles, 7-8 sacks, and a handful of disruptive plays like forced fumbles or blocked kicks on a yearly basis. He should hit that number and be a consistent DL2/3 fairly early in his career. 

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