2024 Chicago Bears Draft Target: Johnny Newton
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

2024 Chicago Bears Draft Target: Johnny Newton

by - Senior Writer -

It's another day closer to the draft, and another in-person visit is scheduled at Halas Hall. For a team that owns two of the top 10 picks, including the No. 1 overall selection, they are doing their homework to make sure they have the right guy in mind for when they are on the clock.

Caleb Williams seems to be the foregone conclusion for the No. 1 overall pick, but what the Bears do after that may be a massive mystery. Should they hold that pick, Chicago will have a plethora of talented options to choose from, and most of those options will be franchise-altering players. If they trade back, the Bears will still have options next time they get on the clock, but they will also add more assets to put themselves in a position to add more depth pieces.

One of those players could be University of Illinois DT Johnny Newton, who is next in line to schedule an in-person visit with the Bears. Outside of a few offensive players, Chicago has made it known that they still want to target defensive players, as most of their in-person interviews have been on the defensive side of the ball. Newton is no different, as he fills an area of need for this team.

When you look across the Bears defense, not only do they need help when it comes to adding pass rushers, but they also need help in the trenches. What the Bears need is a player capable of playing the 3-technique in the Matt Eberflus scheme, which is where Newton comes into play.

Newton put on quite a show during his pro day on Tuesday, and one where the Bears front office was in attendance. They must've loved what they saw from Newton, as he is expected to visit Halas Hall late this week for an in-person interview with the Bears. What stood out the most about his pro day was that he is healthy after an injury kept him out of the NFL Combine.

Coming off his second straight First-Team All Big-Ten honors, Newton elected to forgo his senior season and has now declared for the NFL draft. In addition to getting first-team all-conference recognition, the Fighting Illini standout was a Consensus All-American in 2023 and recipient of the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award handed out by the Big Ten. And for good measure, Newton was also the conference’s Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year award winner.

That's quite a resume for a player not considered a major piece in this year's draft, but after his workout, Newton will now have his name soaring up the draft board. Lance Zierlein is very high on Newton and feels he could be one of the more undervalued players in this year's class.

He's an active interior defender with the potential to build on his disruptive production in college. Newton’s size and length don’t stand out, but he has shown a consistent ability to gain extension and set edges against bigger opponents. Newton is clever in setting up blockers and beating them with sudden hand usage and foot quickness as both a run defender and a pass rusher. He’s strong enough to hold the point but won’t overwhelm NFL guards with force or power. His skill level and athleticism should create additional playmaking opportunities for him as a three-down 3-technique with early starting potential.

If you are looking for a player comparison for Newton, look no further than Javon Hargrove, who has averaged 8.5 sacks and nine tackles for a loss in the past three seasons. Ranked as the 49th-best prospect in this year's class, the Bears could easily grab him in the second round and immediately stash him as a depth piece.

No one is expecting the kind of production from him that Hargrove has given right away, but should he come close to that production at any point, it would be a massive steal for the Bears. Newton isn't a household name yet, but in a few short days, he will be a name that people will get familiar with.

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