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Chargers select Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton in new 2024 mock draft

The Chargers attack the interior of their defense by selecting an All-American defensive tackle out of Illinois.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers will enter this offseason with plenty of needs across their roster. Off the top, they will need reinforcements at cornerback, tight end, running back, defensive tackle, and potentially center if Corey Linsley's timetable to return remains bleak. With only so many picks in the draft, the Chargers will have to prioritize which positions they feel can be fixed via free agency and which ones need the investment of a high draft pick.

A year ago, Illinois defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton was being viewed as a potential top-10 draft pick and the top player at his position in the class. Fast-forward a year and not much has changed. He's still being viewed as the top tackle but some now have him potentially falling out of the top 10. In a new mock draft from CBS Sports, this was a welcomed sight by the Chargers who managed to snag him with the 12th-overall pick.

During the 2022 campaign, Newton erupted for 14 tackles for loss to go with 5.5 sacks and a career-high 62 tackles. This year, Newton posted 8.5 sacks and a career-highs 7.5 sacks en route to being named both the Smith-Brown Defensive Player of the Year and Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten. And if you name it, he was probably on that sports publication’s annual All-American team, as well.

In the Twitter video above, just like the author points out, Newton possesses some eye-popping explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. He’s able to launch his 6’2, 295-pound frame past opposing linemen in a flash and turn the current with surprising efficiency. The Chargers have long lacked a consistent pass-rush presence along the interior that can also hold up in the run game. Morgan Fox has been great for the Chargers over the past 1.5+ seasons but he does not hold up the same as a run stopper. It’s a really incredible sight to watch when Newton is able to swiftly stack and shed blockers to limit gains on the ground.

The idea of adding a player of Newton’s caliber to the Chargers is obviously exciting, but that means giving up the chance to use their first-round pick on a player at a more impactful position on the roster. Or at least, one that’s more exciting.

Cornerback and tight end are likely to be up near the top of the priority list but that could certainly change depending on who ends up being the head coach of the Chargers in 2024 and beyond.