Washington Commanders pick Illinois football DT Johnny Newton in 2024 NFL Draft

The 2024 NFL Draft is heating up, and the Illinois football team already has a player off the board
Illinois v Minnesota
Illinois v Minnesota / David Berding/GettyImages

For the second year in a row, the Illinois football team has landed a player in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.

The 2023 NFL Draft was special for the Illini. We had cornerback Devon Witherspoon selected with pick No. 5 in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks. This was the highest draft pick the program has had since the 1996 NFL Draft when Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

Illinois continued the hot streak of NFL Draft picks on Friday. In the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Washington Commanders selected Illini defensive tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton with pick No. 36.

Newton’s game blossomed at Illinois the past couple of seasons. In 2022, he put the Big Ten on notice with 59.0 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3.0 pass deflections, and 2.0 fumble recoveries. He was dominant for the Orange and Blue, and this continued over into his junior season.

In 2023, Newton was able to build on his great sophomore campaign with 52.0 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2.0 pass deflections, 1.0 fumble recoveries, and 1.0 forced fumbles. He finished his time in Champaign as a consensus All-American, only the 22nd in the history of the program.

The Washington Commanders are getting a dog in the No. 36 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and former Illinois football great Johnny Newton

I am honestly not sure why Newton didn’t go higher in the 2024 NFL Draft. I don’t think people quite understand what this kid had to go through at Illinois.

Newton was the best player on the defensive line, and offenses knew this. He was getting double and tripled team consistently, and this altered his numbers. If he was playing on a defensive line that featured multiple All-Conference players, his numbers would have been through the roof.

The motor that Newton plays with is incredible. There is no quit in this kid, and that type of hustle is infectious. He is a great locker room guy who will make your team instantly better.

I have watched Newton for his entire career, and I will go on the record and say that he won’t just be a solid NFL player. I believe Newton is a multi-time Pro Bowler who will help your defense do great things. This was a great pick.

Top 10 Illinois football NFL Draft busts of all time. Top 10 Illinois football NFL Draft busts of all time. dark. Next