IDDP: Jer’Zhan Newton
Pro comparison: Quinnen Williams
Who is Jer’Zhan Newton?
Jer’Zhan Newton was a three-star prospect out of Clearwater, FL. Before he decided to join the Fighting Illini he had 22 other offers to think about. Florida State, Kentucky, Miami, and North Carolina would be 4 of those 22 that tried to recruit the defensive monster. He did commit to Maryland on August 31, 2019. The Terrapins must have been ecstatic knowing they were getting a premier pass rusher. However, he still had 3 visits planned to Kansas State, Illinois, and Georgia Tech. Illinois was the middle visit of the 3 programs. Whatever happened on December 6, 2019, during that visit was enough to sway Newton to decommit from Maryland. On December 18, 2019, Newton would officially commit to Illinois. He enrolled with the school the following year on August 5, 2020.
Newton would not see the field until Halloween during his freshman season. In that game versus Purdue, he made sure to take his opportunity and run with it. He had 2 total tackles with a force fumble! He played in a total of 7 games that season acquiring 23 total tackles with 1.5 sacks plus that lone force fumble.
His sophomore year is when he got on the field for every game. His best game would not come until week 12 at #17 Iowa. He had 7 total tackles, 5 being solo, and a sack. They lost that game 33-23. Newton would finish year 2 with 50 total tackles, 19 solo tackles, and 3.5 sacks.
The good thing about Newton is each year it seems he has gotten a little bit better. Now in his junior year he saw the 4th most snaps on the team with 723. He would be a key for the Illini’s front seven. He continued to get behind the line acquiring 5.5 sacks that season. Plus, he closed the gap further between his solo tackles and assisted tackles. He had a total of 56 tackles with 26 being solo.
In his senior year he has seen 83.6% of snaps. Third most on the team behind only defensive backs Xavier Scott and Miles Scott. He is the team leader in pressures with 44. That is double the second most on the team. He continues to cause havoc to opposing quarterbacks acquiring 7.5 this season.
To many, including myself, Newton is ranked as one of the top defensive linemen of the 2024 class. Currently he is my DL2 behind only UCLA’s Laiatu Latu. That is enough of his past though. Let us look at some strengths and weaknesses of Newton. Plus, talk about some of my favorite NFL landing spots for him.
Newton never stops. He plays with a high motor on every snap. He is quick off the snap usually jumping right before the offensive lineman even does. This gives him an advantage in which he uses his hands well to swim around the blockers. His awareness allows him to know where the ball is headed. With this awareness he pushes his blockers towards the holes blocking any gaps from the running backs. This is key. Even if he is unable to make the tackle, he crowds the gaps making it harder for opposing running backs to push through. Newton never gives up on a play. He is one of those linemen you will see rushing down the field until the runner is down. For his size he should not be moving as fast as he does. This speed makes him a matchup nightmare for any blocker.
He almost has a flawless approach to the game. However, Newton could work on his tackling. He seems to miss some open field tackles by simply not wrapping up correctly. He has the ability to get behind the line quickly. Sometimes he just overshoots his shot missing the ball completely. He is a big play type of defender. That is a great feat to have. At the same time, sometimes a simple stop is just needed, not the big play tackle.
Potential NFL Landing Spots
I think Jer’Zhan Newton is a first round draft prospect. Potentially even top 10!
New Orleans Saints – The Saints will eventually need a replacement for Cameron Jordan. A solid defensive lineman that has been a leader for the team for many years. Some would argue Jordan is the heart of the defense. If Newton can train alongside a presence like Jordan than the sky is the limit. Lock in that aggressive D-line for years to come by having a difference maker step in once Jordan retires.
Los Angeles Rams – Aaron Donald is the man in Los Angeles. He needs help though as he is getting older. In fact, he has hinted at leaving soon. Why not? He has won defensive player of the year. He has won a Super Bowl. He does not need to prove anything else. If anything, the rest of the defensive line needs to prove they deserve to be on the team next year. In my eyes they do not. Which is why they need a defensive playmaker like Newton. If one could imagine being a quarterback and seeing on the opposite side Jer’Zhan Newton and Aaron Donald against you! That is a scary thought.
Atlanta Falcons – If the draft were tomorrow the Falcons would have to trade up to get Newton. He might be a top 10 draft pick. The Falcons have seemed to have found some youth at the linebacker position. They got some good free agents for their secondary this past season. What are they missing? A solid defensive lineman to be the leader of that pass rush. Newton would easily fit right in to become an impact player. Add him plus maybe one other linebacker or defensive lineman and we may talk about the Falcons as a top defense in the NFL next season.
Those are my thoughts on Illinois defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton. Do you enjoy IDP devy content? Then be sure to check in every Tuesday for my latest IDDP (Individual Defensive Devy Player) article. Thank you for reading. Follow me on X @ThePPRShow for more content.