2024 Atlanta Falcons Potential Draft Pick Profile: DL Jer'Zhan "Johnny" Newton

One of the best pass rushers in the 2024 NFL Draft isn't even an edge defender, but a defensive lineman named Johnny Newton.
Chattanooga v Illinois
Chattanooga v Illinois / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

Jer'Zahn "Johnny" Newton is the best interior defensive lineman in the entire draft. The Atlanta Falcons could potentially make a trade that would lead to them to drafting the best edge defender in the draft at No. 8 overall and also the best interior defensive lineman in the draft towards the end of the first round. The Falcons adding two pieces to the pass rush that could desperately need it only makes sense if one of them is the phenomenal Newton.

Jerzhan "Johnny" Newton

University of Illinois

Defensive Lineman

Athletic Comparison and Numbers

Johnny Newton wound up not testing throughout the cycle. His size is comparable to Grady Jarrett, but his athleticism on film looks similar as well.

Stats and Awards

2023: 12 Games Played, 52 Tackles, 8.5 Tackles for Loss, 7.5 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 2 Pass Deflections, 4 Blocked Kicks, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski Trophy Finalist, Bednarik Award Semifinalist, Outland Trophy Semifinaiist, Lott IMPACT Trophy Semifinalist, Lombardi Award Semifinalist, First-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big Ten
2022: 13 Games Played, 60 Tackles, 13.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 11 QB Hurries, 3 Pass Deflections, Second-Team All-American, Bednarik Award Semifinalist, First Team All-Big Ten, Academic All-Big Ten,
2021: 12 Games Played, 50 Tackles, 4.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention, Academic All-Big Ten
2020: 8 Games Played, 23 Tackles, 1.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 1 Fumble Forced

Highlight Reel

Scouting Report


With how fast he is off the line and how agile Johnny Newton is in general, he's a terror for those "phone booth quickness" offensive guards and centers. He can play sideline-to-sideline with how quick he is and is extremely powerful for his frame. His shorter frame is actually a benefit with his leverage and penetrating ability. His high football intelligence shows when he's getting after the passer with his plan of attack. Newton has a bull rush, counters off the bull rush and counters off of those counters that allow him to be extremely efficient in destroying offensive linemen.


The great thing about Johnny Newton's weaknesses is that outside of height, everything else is coachable. He's got to improve his pad level and get better at timing with his punch. He's got to get a bit stronger and could add some weight to his frame over the long term. Newton is also a bit inconsistent with his pass rush lanes but with a mentor that will help him, he could end up being a complete player who is the star of an NFL defensive line. Maybe even an entire NFL defense.

Intangibles & Off-Field Red Flags

Johnny Newton was a team captain for the Fighting Illini and one of the leaders of their defense. He earned his captaincy as a vocal leader and hard worker who set the tone for his defense on and off the field. Newton also has the grit that will be required in the NFL. He played the entire season with a Jones fracture in his foot that was fixed by surgery in January. As long as he's healthy, he's going to be the ideal locker room fit for every team in the NFL. The only suspensions Newton ever got in college were for the stupid targeting rule as well—not off-field issues.

NFL Stylistic Comparison: Grady Jarrett 

A locker room leader with a stocky fame that is quicker than expected and dominates as a pass rusher sounds just like Grady Jarrett. But it also sounds like Johnny Newton. It's not just frames and quickness that makes these two comparable, but it's also the versatility. Jarrett has played all over the line in every technique from 1-technique to 5-technique whether it be as a defensive tackle, nose tackle or defensive end depending on the formation. Newton can do the same thing and be the heir apparent should the Falcons select him.

How does he fit in with the Atlanta Falcons

The best thing the Falcons could do in the NFL Draft is somehow wind up with Johnny Newton on the roster. Whether it's through a trade up or an unexpected fall into the second round, Newton would be like cloning Grady Jarrett on the line, and adding Newton to Jarrett, David Onyemata and the solid rotational pieces of Kentavius Street, Ta'Quon Graham and LaCale London would be brilliant. The Falcons having that group of pocket collapsers will make the rest of the defense have an easier time getting to the quarterback and whoever is trying to carry the ball out of the backfield.

All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.