Illinois football is in store for another great year, as we have one of the best players in the country leading the way on defense.
To not be impressed with Jer’Zhan Newton is to not be a football fan. The Illini nose tackle has done incredible things since joining the program, and he continues to get the spotlight on one of the best defenses in all of college football.
Newton is coming off a season where he earned near-unanimous second-team All-American status, and he was a member of the first-team All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches. Entering the 2023 campaign, Newton has now earned near-unanimous first-team All-American status, and he is also looked at as a top NFL Draft pick in 2024.
On Monday morning, Pro Football Focus updated their 2024 NFL Draft big board. This is their opinion of the top 50 players for the upcoming draft. The Big Ten is well-represented, as they have five players in the top 10. Among those players is Newton, who checks in as the No. 10 player for the upcoming draft.
In the last iteration of the big board, PFF actually had Newton as the No. 8 player for the 2024 NFL Draft. This two-spot drop isn’t a bid deal, and it is extremely impressive that Newton can make the top 10.
Jer’Zhan Newton could give the Illinois football team back-to-back top-five NFL Draft picks
I am not worried in the least bit about Newton falling to No. 10 on this big board. This adjustment was made without week one starting.
Newton has plenty of time to show off his talent on the football field. He is poised to have a big year, as he is playing alongside his Law Firm teammate, Keith Randolph Jr. It is underrated how much a great teammate like Randolph can help someone like Newton. If Illinois didn’t have at talented defensive line, then there would be more focus by the offensive line on Newton.
If Newton does live up to the first-team All-American billing, he would have a solid chance to crawl up the big board rankings. That would mean there is a chance that Illinois would have back-to-back top-five draft picks, which is something I couldn’t even have imagined just three years ago.
Illinois football is in a great spot as a program. With Newton leading the way, look for the Illini to be around eight wins again in 2023.