Purple & Gold Prospects: Jer’Zhan Newton Scouting Report
Welcome to Purple & Gold Prospects!
This will be an ongoing series to get Vikings fans familiar with upcoming draft prospects. The focus of this series will be to cover prominent prospects entering the upcoming NFL Draft. The series will center on the position groups of highest need on the current Vikings roster, but will also cover stand-out players across the spectrum. I hope you will join me on this continuing journey to learn more about upcoming draft classes.
With that let’s discover the possible future of your Minnesota Vikings!
Weight: 290 lbs.
Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton was a 3-star recruit out of Clearwater Central Catholic High School in Clearwater, Florida. Out of high school, Newton had several offers including the Florida Gators, FSU, and Miami. He originally committed to the Maryland Terrapins before settling on Illinois. He has been a force along that Illinois defensive line including a breakout year in 2022. In that season he earned first-team All-American honors with 62 tackles, 14 TFLs, and 5.5 sacks. He has positioned himself as the number one defensive tackle in this upcoming draft class and a clear first-round prospect.
Games watched: Minnesota 2022, Nebraska 2022, Wisconsin 2022
Newton has a very compact, spring-loaded stance. It allows him to generate great burst and explosiveness off the snap. His straight-line speed is also good and combined with his burst allows him to stress gaps in the offensive line. He is amazing at shooting gaps when the line is in motion, rarely allowing offensive linemen to get into his pads and pushing him out of run lanes. Newton plays with great pad level and consistently wins the leverage battle against his opponents. He has great power and violent hands. Newton displays a good array of pass-rushing moves and counter including a nice rip and pull and a tight swim move. He is always fighting with a great motor and isn’t really a matter of if he will win but when he will win his rep. His awareness is also superb. Newton always keeps his head up and eyes in the backfield. He does a great job of diagnosing plays and getting his hands up to disrupt passes. Newton also anchors very well in one on one situations in the run game and rarely gets moved off of his spot. He has excellent upper body strength and flashes moments of amazing power to throw off blockers and make the tackle.
Newton doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses to his game but a few show up on film. He is a little lighter and can get washed out at times in the run game, especially against double teams. His length is also a little lackluster and can hinder his hand-fighting and engagements against longer-armed offensive linemen. While his burst and straight-line speed are excellent his lateral agility is lacking and shows when trying to pursue ball carriers horizontally. He also struggles at times in shedding blocks and can miss tackles in his lanes. Newton played all across the Illinois defensive line but will need to improve his physicality if he is ever tasked with setting the edge at the next level.
So far in 2023
Newton’s season so far hasn’t quite lived up to the pace of his 2022 season but is still a good start. Through 8 games he has amassed 35 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks. He has also had 2 passes defended and tacked on a forced fumble to go with everything else. Newton has continued to display all of the strengths of his 2022 campaign and has already been named to the AP midseason All-American first team. He has solidified himself as a round 1 prospect and possibly a top 20 selection next April.
Anchor/Run Defense: 9.1 / 10
Awareness: 9.5 / 10
Burst/Quickness: 9.2 / 10
Counters: 8.5 / 10
Pad Level/Leverage: 9 / 10
Pass Rush/Penetration: 8.5 / 10
Play Speed/Agility: 8 / 10
Power: 9 / 10
Size/Length: 7.5 / 10
Tackling: 8.6 / 10
OVERALL: 86.9 – Late First Round
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