June 24, 2024

The Buffalo Bills have faced challenges in their defense during crucial playoff moments. This offseason, they experienced significant departures from their defensive lineup, including key players like safety Jordan Poyer, middle linebacker Tyrel Dodson, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Additionally, other former defensive players like safety Micah Hyde and cornerback Tre’Davious White are expected to sign with other teams.

These losses have created voids in multiple defensive positions for the Bills. While selecting a defensive player in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft may not be the most popular choice among fans, it could be the most beneficial decision for the team. In Daniel Jeremiah’s recent mock draft, he projected the Bills to address their defensive needs by selecting Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton in the first round.

Buffalo is looking to bolster its interior defensive line with the addition of Jer’Zhan Newton, according to Daniel Jeremiah. There are also other potential defensive tackle options such as Braden Fiske from Florida State and Kris Jenkins from Michigan.

Newton brings an impressive resume to the table, having been named the 2023 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and earning two All-American honors. In the previous season, he tallied 7.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, following a strong performance in 2022 with 5.5 sacks and a career-high 14 tackles for loss. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Newton showcased his skills, achieving the best production score and the second-best total score for NFL Next Gen Stats.

Lance Zierlein, an NFL Draft analyst, likened Newton to San Francisco 49ers’ defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and gave him a prospect grade of 6.36, projecting him to be a quality starter in the league. Despite not having standout size and length, Newton excels in using his technique and quickness to set edges against bigger opponents. He demonstrates cleverness in setting up blockers and then utilizes sudden hand usage and foot quickness to excel as both a run defender and a pass rusher. While he may not rely on overpowering force, Newton’s skill level and athleticism make him a versatile player with the potential to make impactful plays as a three-down 3-technique with early starting capabilities.

The Buffalo Bills have a significant need to enhance their roster with impact players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. While they might find a receiver capable of immediate contributions in the second round, prospects of Jer’Zhan Newton’s caliber may not be available later in the draft. Considering their defensive challenges in crucial playoff games, a player like Newton could be precisely what the Bills require to effectively contain top-tier quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow when the stakes are highest.

Newton named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year

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