The Steelers have continually been able to find gems in the draft at wide receiver outside of the first round. With the selection of Chase Claypool last year, the team has another emerging star on the outside to go with Diontae Johnson and James Washington. JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to hit free agency but has publicly said he would like to return to Pittsburgh. If JuJu does not come back, the Steelers will have a need for a slot receiver as Claypool, Johnson, and Washington are all at their best on the outside.
The 2021 NFL Draft will start on April 29. In the lead up to the draft, keep an eye on our Prospect Profiles and other Draft Previews.
Today, we look at North Carolina WR Dazz Newsome, another slot receiver who also starred on special teams as a punt returner.
Weight: 190 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Dazz Newsome hails from the same hometown as Mike Tomlin – Hampton, Virginia. Coming out of Hampton High School he was the top-rated cornerback in the state of Virginia. At North Carolina they recognized his talent with the ball in his hands and put him on offense. Newsome has football bloodlines has his father Myron played linebacker at Virginia Tech and went on to play in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League in the late 90s. His older brother Deon Newsome also played at Virginia Tech, starting his career as a wide receiver then switching to safety for the last two seasons.
Receiving: 54 rec, 684 yards, 6 TDs
Rushing: 2 att, 21 yards, 1 TD
Kick Returns: 1 return, 19 yards
Punt Returns: 17 returns, 168 yards
Receiving: 188 rec, 2435 yards, 18 TDs
Rushing: 20 att, 178 yards, 2 TDs
Kick Returns: 7 returns, 144 yards
Punt Returns: 50 returns, 535 yards, 1 TD
Newsome came to North Carolina and as a true freshman immediately started seeing snaps on the offensive side of the ball. He started two games his freshman year and six more as a sophomore when he totaled over 1000 all-purpose yards between offense and special teams. His junior year was a breakout campaign, starting 12 games and scoring 10 TDs, earning second-team All-ACC honors. As a senior, Newsome once again started all 12 games and was an honorable mention for all-conference honors. He led the ACC in punt return average and displayed an all-around skillset to make him a versatile weapon.
Newsome’s speed immediately jumps off the screen. He has impressive burst with short-area quickness and sharp cuts that made him excel as a punt returner and a slot receiver. He was used almost exclusively out of the slot by North Carolina and his straight-line speed made him a dangerous target on go routes and fade routes out of the slot. Newsome caught a number of deep balls where he simply blew past the opposing defenders. Dazz is good at locating and tracking the ball in the air on deep throws, a trait that is not always common in slot receivers. He is shifty in close quarters which were on display numerous times on punt returns and wide receiver screens.
While Newsome is quick and shifty, he is not great at carrying speed through his breaks. While he can stop on a dime and make a quick change of direction, he tends to lose a lot of speed through the break and have to re-accelerate after coming out of the cut. He is somewhat of a body-catcher and does not snatch the ball out away from his frame but usually lets a pass get into his chest. One other concern is that Newsome can occasionally give up on plays in which he is not immediately involved. On running plays, he does not always search out a defender to block downfield and he can give up on his routes if it doesn’t seem like the ball is going to come his way. He will need to work on finishing plays and playing through the whistle in the NFL. One other odd thing that comes out during his tape is that he tends to somersault a lot. Not necessarily as a showboating thing, but it seems his go-to move when a defender hits him around the ankles was to do a frontflip in the air.
Newsome certainly has the explosiveness in his game to be a contributor in the NFL. At the worst, he could immediately step in on special teams as a punt returner. He spent most of his career at North Carolina playing out of the slot, and in the right system he could excel there in the NFL. Newsome’s long speed makes him a serious weapon on deep routes down the seam or on slot fades. That said, being solely a slot receiver will probably drop his draft stock a little bit. Teams may be hesitant to draft a player early that does not have a lot of experience on the outside. He will likely be an early Day 3 pick (4th or 5th round) but if he lands in an offensive system that runs a spread offense with a lot of motion where he can find mis-matches, he’ll have a chance to be a strong contributor.
Final Grade: 4th or 5th round
References: ESPN.com, GoHeels.com