Saints recently spent time with one of the top defenders in the 2024 NFL Draft

With the 2024 NFL Draft days away, the New Orleans Saints took some time to get more familiar with one of the class’s top defensive prospects.
NFL Combine
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The 2024 NFL Draft is just a week away and everyone is convinced the New Orleans Saints will take an offensive tackle in the first round. There’s a reason why this belief is so common. New Orleans let Andrus Peat walk in free agency this offseason and Ryan Ramczyk is dealing with a knee injury that is proving tough to manage. Additionally, Trevor Penning hasn’t provided the confidence that he’s ready to take over.

All that leads to New Orleans selecting an offensive tackle in every mock draft. However, the Saints recently took some time to get familiar with a top defensive prospect who is projected to get selected in the first round. Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton held a pro day on Tuesday, and New Orleans was one of eight reported teams in attendance.

Saints attend Johnny Newton’s pro day

Newton, whose actual first name is Jer’Zhan, is one of the top defenders in the draft class. However, he wasn’t able to participate in the physical parts of the pre-draft process because he had surgery in January to repair a partial Jones fracture. He’s been hard at work since then, and was able to shine at his pro day in the week prior to the draft.

Even if Newton didn’t work out for teams, he’d still have a lot of interest because he’s coming off an impressive four-year career with the Fighting Illini. In four seasons, Newton recorded a total of 187 tackles, 27.5 for a loss, and 18 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 304-pound defensive tackle has drawn comparisons to Javon Hargrave, who has been very good in the league.

The Saints being interested in Newton makes sense because the team needs defensive tackle depth. However, it’s unlikely that New Orleans will draft Newton at 14 over an offensive tackle. If Newton happens to slide for some reason, though, New Orleans could use its 45th pick on him.