Commanders rookie fires warning shot after dramatic NFL Draft slide

Being overlooked didn't go unnoticed by Johnny Newton.
Johnny Newton
Johnny Newton / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody thought the Washington Commanders had a shot at landing Johnny Newton during the 2024 NFL Draft. Most analysts believed he was a first-round lock. Others had him going as high as the 10-15 range thanks to the outstanding athletic attributes at his disposal. A dramatic slide out of the top 32 selections forced general manager Adam Peters to shift gears.

Peters was contemplating going up for Newton but couldn't work anything out. The Commanders faced a nervous wait, but the formidable defensive lineman dropped right into their laps at No. 36 overall.

Washington didn't take long to turn in their card and bring Newton on board. Speculation was rife about why the player slid so far from his initial pre-draft projection. This centered on injury issues and his perceived lack of production against the run.

Newton is currently dealing with complications in both feet. It kept him out of Washington's early offseason workout program, but those in power are confident he can participate in some capacity during their upcoming training camp providing there are no further setbacks.

This is good news for Newton. The former Illinois standout is also eager to silence his doubters and make them pay for overlooking him during the college selection process.

Commanders rookie Johnny Newton is eager to prove people wrong

During an interview for the team's Raising Hail with the Rookies series, Newton was asked about whether dropping in the draft is serving as extra motivation heading into his rookie campaign. The answer was emphatic.

Harnessing this energy is crucial.

There's a big opportunity awaiting Newton in 2024 if he stays clear of injury. He'll be slotted behind Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne on the defensive tackle depth chart initially. However, expect Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. to get him heavily involved depending on the schematic alignment on any given down.

Newton's ability to create havoc in obvious pass-rushing situations is something the Commanders must utilize immediately. He's incredibly difficult to stop once early momentum is generated. The player boasts explosiveness and overall athleticism that defies a man his size. His skill set also looks tailor-made for Quinn's system if everything goes according to plan in the weeks leading up to Washington's regular-season opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The league is full of players who outperformed their draft status and leave people around the NFL harboring regret. There are also plenty who vindicated the decisions of teams by underperforming in a professional environment.

The interior force is looking to avoid such a dubious distinction. Newton is in the best possible place to blossom thanks to Quinn and the presence of two established veterans who've been to the top. Maximizing these resources will be an integral part of any success that comes his way.

If everything goes according to plan with Newton, the Commanders have a potential steal on their hands. Drafting a defensive tackle probably wasn't high on Peters' list of priorities. But this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Newton has the tools. If they're nurtured effectively, it won't be long before he makes certain executives and other front-office personnel look extremely foolish.