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2024 NFL Draft: Jer'Zhan Newton, Cooper DeJean among Day 2's top value picks

The Next Gen Stats Team uses its draft model to identify the five best value picks from Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Jer'Zhan Newton
Illinois · DT · Senior
Washington Commanders
Round 2 · No. 36 overall
  • Production Score: 88
  • Athleticism Score: 70

New Commanders general manager Adams Peters stayed true to his roots in the 49ers organization, using a premium pick to enhance the defensive line. Newton ranked 25th on NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's Big Board -- but fell into Round 2. He underwent offseason surgery to deal with a partial Jones fracture in his foot, which prevented him from working out at the NFL Scouting Combine. But anyone concerned about the injury should note that availability was not an issue for the three-year starter at Illinois. The 304-pound defensive tackle did not miss a single game over his four-year career, averaging an impressive 62 defensive snaps per game in his final season, as The Athletic's Dane Brugler noted in his draft guide. For context, no NFL defensive lineman played as many snaps per game in 2023; Maxx Crosby played the most, at 61 snaps per game. (For his part, Newton said Friday that he's "fully healed" and has "been ready to go" since taking part in Illinois' pro day.)

The new staff in Washington added one of the best players available on the board to a position of strength, bolstering a unit that currently features the two highest-paid defensive players on the roster, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, who will command $21.6 million and $21.4 million in cap hits, respectively, in 2024.

Cooper DeJean
Iowa · CB · Junior
Philadelphia Eagles
Round 2 · No. 40 overall
  • Production Score: 87
  • Athleticism Score: 79

A day after investing a first-round pick in the top outside corner of the draft -- Quinyon Mitchell, one of Day 1's best value picks -- the Eagles doubled down in the secondary by adding this playmaking corner from Iowa. General manager Howie Roseman traded both of Philly's second-round picks to move ahead of the Packers and address a key need at the core of his defense.

The great weaknesses of the 2023 Eagles' defense were its inability to defend the middle of the field and its susceptibility to explosive plays. The unit allowed 1,824 yards to receivers aligned in the slot last season, 162 more than any other team. While DeJean primarily played outside in college, he is a versatile athlete who can adapt to any role in the secondary and make an immediate impact in coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. He can also be expected to contribute immediately on special teams, as a gunner and potential punt returner. (As for the broken fibula he suffered last season, he indicated he is fully recovered, saying Friday that he "would be ready to go" if a game were played today.)

Adonai Mitchell
Texas · WR · Junior
Indianapolis Colts
Round 2 · No. 52 overall
  • Production Score: 72
  • Athleticism Score: 91

While many expected the Colts to select a dynamic offensive weapon in the first round, patience proved to be a virtue on Day 2, when they traded down to the 52nd overall spot -- where Mitchell, the dynamic size-speed phenom out of Texas via Georgia, fell into their hands. Long and explosive, Mitchell steps in as an upgrade to Alec Pierce in the role of field-stretching X receiver. According to NGS combine tracking data, the 6-foot-3 Mitchell reached the second fastest top speed during the 40-yard dash at the combine, clocking 23.84 mph on the run, trailing only his former college teammate, Xavier Worthy, who ran 24.41 mph (and was scooped up by the Chiefs in Round 1). Pairing Mitchell's speed and length with quarterback Anthony Richardson's rare arm strength represents a high-upside move that could pay off in Indianapolis for years to come.

If there's one thing Chris Ballard has emphasized during his eight years as the Colts' GM, it's athleticism. According to the NGS draft model, Colts draft picks under Ballard have averaged an athleticism score of 78, ranking second league-wide between 2017 and 2023, behind only the Eagles.

Junior Colson
Michigan · LB · Junior
Los Angeles Chargers
Round 3 · No. 69 overall
  • Production Score: 71
  • Athleticism Score: 85

Heading into the draft, it was reasonable to speculate that new Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh would favor players he coached during his nine-season tenure at the University of Michigan. But when it came time to select a Wolverine, the Bolts didn't have to reach. With the 69th overall pick, Harbaugh secured one of the leaders of his Michigan defense -- who also happened to be one of the best players available.

Colson has the potential to immediately step in as a three-down starter to lead the Chargers' linebacker corps following the departures of Kenneth Murray and Eric Kendricks this offseason, particularly given his familiarity with new coordinator (and ex-Michigan DC) Jesse Minter's defense. Colson was Co-Defensive Player of the Year for Minter's top-ranked defense in his final season, leading the team in tackles while earning the Lott IMPACT Trophy, awarded to the nation's most impactful player of the year -- both on and off the field. A constant presence in Harbaugh's defense during his time in Ann Arbor, Colson played in all 43 games of his college career, persevering through injuries that required him to play with casts on both hands during the latter half of Michigan's national championship run.

Cooper Beebe
Kansas State · G · Senior
Dallas Cowboys
Round 3 · No. 73 overall
  • Production Score: 75
  • Athleticism Score: 88

On Thursday, the Cowboys traded down and drafted offensive tackle Tyler Guyton in Round 1. On Friday, the Cowboys went back to the well to continue rebuilding their offensive line depth, using one of the picks acquired in Thursday's swap to add Beebe, who was projected as a second-round pick in Chad Reuter's seven-round mock. Beebe, the top-ranked guard according to the NGS draft model, is the only offensive guard in this year's class to earn an overall score above 80. A highly decorated lineman with experience at both guard and tackle, Beebe was a finalist for both the 2023 Outland Trophy (awarded to the nation's top interior lineman) and the William V. Campbell Trophy (known as the academic Heisman). He was also named a first-team All-American and the Big 12 Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year in his final college season.

The 6-3, 322-pound Beebe ran a 5.03-second 40-yard dash at the combine, reaching a top speed of 12.58 mph within the first 5 yards (fifth-fastest among interior linemen) and a top speed of 20.28 mph across the entire run (also fifth-fastest). His NGS athleticism score of 88 ranks as the fourth-highest among guards in this year's class.

Stalwarts Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz departed Dallas this offseason, while right guard Zack Martin will turn 34 in November. With the selections of Guyton and Beebe, the Cowboys are reloading for the future.