2024 NFL Draft prospect compared to Falcons’ Grady Jarrett

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Indiana at Illinois

In today’s NFL, interior offensive and defensive linemen have become premium positions, similar to the tackle and edge positions. The Falcons have invested heavily along the interior of both sides.

Chris Lindstrom’s extension made him the highest-paid guard in the league at the time, and the club invested a second-round pick in Matthew Bergeron on the other side.

Defensively, the Falcons gave David Onyemata a lucrative three-year deal, and he joined the heart and soul of Atlanta in Grady Jarrett, who received a contract extension from the new regime a couple of years ago.

Jarrett is coming off a torn ACL, the first significant injury of his career, but if anyone can make it back to where they were at pre-injury, it’s the Clemson product. Taken in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Jarrett has become one of the few Day 3 stars at his position.

Coming out of college, he was labeled as ‘undersize’ as he lacked the traditional length and strength that many at his position possessed, but Jarrett, with the help of maybe the greatest defensive lineman of all time in Aaron Donald, has paved the way for other smaller interior prospects.

The next Grady Jarrett could be coming out of the 2024 NFL Draft too; ESPN’s Steve Muench has compared the Falcons’ stalwart to Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton.

Newton (Illinois) and Jarrett have the initial quickness, active hands and instincts to slip blocks, locate the ball and make plays in the backfield. They don’t have great size — Newton measures 6-2, 304 pounds, and Jarrett is 6-0, 305 pounds — but they play with good pad level and can stack bigger blockers. Their physical hands and motors make them effective pass-rushers. — Steve Muench, NFL draft analyst

I don’t know much about Newton, but another smaller interior prospect that I am familiar with is LSU’s Mekhi Wingo. At 6’2” and 284 lbs., he fits the same kind of play style as Newton, Jarrett, and Donald.

Of this class, Wingo recorded the second-fastest 40-yard dash time among defensive tackles at 4.85 seconds and the fastest 10-yard split at 1.64 seconds. His game is built on finesse, leverage, and quickness, able to do any stunt and twist a defensive coordinator could ask. He racked up 4.5 sacks for the Tigers this past season with very little help along the LSU defensive line.

If the Falcons wanted to get a Grady Jarret-esque defender to learn behind Grady Jarrett, this draft class has at least a couple of intriguing prospects.

Photographer: James Black/Icon Sportswire
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