Dazz Newsome first appeared for the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 9, 2017 against Louisville. In that 47-35 loss to the Cardinals, Newsome caught three passes for 66 yards in his first collegiate game.
Unfortunately, he did not have a reception the next week when UNC traveled to Old Dominion University. ODU is right across the water from Newsome’s hometown of Hampton, Virginia.
Newsome next appeared on October 14, 2017 versus Virginia. He had two receptions that game, and for the next 40 straight games as a Tar Heel, Newsome had at least one reception.
Exclusively a slot receiver, Newsome has some work to do stay at the next level. However, with some hands work and adding some strength, he could be a quality late round find for the right team.
Newsome is listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds. Compared to other receivers, he is undersized. However, he is well above average when it comes to contested catches and broken tackles.
Newsome’s top metric according to MockDraftable is his broad jump. That makes sense when thinking about contested balls.
Yards after catch and receptions for first downs were hallmarks of Newsome’s game the past two seasons. Combine that with his role last season as Carolina’s punt returner, and it's clear that Newsome has speed and agility in the open field that sticks out compared to other slot receivers.
In the past three seasons as a regular and a starter, Newsome had just 13 out of his 1,055 snaps as a receiver outside of the slot. Last season, he ranked 8th in the country with 54 slot catches and 10th with 684 slot reception yards.
Can Newsome make a career out of a slot receiver role, like several before him?
- Contested Catches
Last season, Newsome had one of the top contested catch rates in the country at 80 percent. When considering that statistics, there are a couple of highlights that come to mind:
In 2019 and 2020, Newsome was 11 of 16 with contested catches, proving that pulling down those tough catches was no fluke.
At the next level, winning battles against NFL defensive backs will be critical in keeping your job as depth receiver.
- Deep-Ball Threat
A unique attribute of Newsome’s game is being a deep-ball threat from the slot.
In his junior season, Newsome led all slot receivers with six touchdowns of 20 yards or greater and 13 total deep catches. He pulled in five deep ball last season.
In his last game as a Tar Heel, Newsome’s combined his 20+ yard ability with contested catch skill:
- Agility and Breaking Tackles
Last season, Newsome ranked 16th in the nation in forced missed tackles with 14. He reached that threshold in each of the past three seasons.
Newsome has a missed tackle rate per touch (30 percent) that is second-best compared to all to other receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The component of Newsome’s game that could make him a late draft steal is his experience returning punts. His ability to be a playmaker on special teams provides him added value to a NFL team, and further demonstrates his capacity to break the mold of a typical slot receiver.
According to Pro Football Focus, Newsome was the fifth-highest-graded punt-returner over the past three seasons.
One of Newsome’s offseason goals before the 2020 season was to reduce his number of drops.
He achieved that, with four drops last season. However, a rating of 20 drops on 208 catchable balls remains a concern.
As evidenced by the videos above, Newsome has a knack for catching the tough ball. However, sitting down on a curl route or waiting for a punt has caused him problems in the past.
Every draft profile for Newsome mentions his “body catching,” or letting the ball get to his chest.
Is this something can be fixed in the pros? If so, does it come at the expense of his contested catch ability?
The high number of drops over his collegiate career is a concern for NFL teams, but at least he was trending in the right direction last season.
- Route Running
A new offensive scheme in 2019 was a good thing for Newsome. Much of his playbook was schemed slot targets, and a lot of good things happened for him with Mack Brown and Sam Howell fresh on the scene in Chapel Hill.
In 2020, there was a 30 pass reduction in targets to Newsome. Yes, the offense was more dynamic with the dual-threats out of the backfield and there were two more receivers with more than 100 yards.
However, there has been criticism of Newsome’s route running. If his agility seen after the catch could be better applied before the catch, Newsome’s value to a NFL team will increase.
On one hand, Newsome shows his strength when breaking tackles and winning the competition for contested balls.
Yet, he has some deficiencies when it comes to blocking and being knocked off his routes.
Newsome cannot do anything about his height, so improving his strength will be a top task once he lands on a NFL team.
In a very deep wide receiver pool, Newsome will bring the right team some great value late in the draft.
Newsome’s experience on special teams can help him stay on a roster. Then, it will be about making the most of his opportunities.
A concern for Newsome and his future success will be the team that drafts him. Will it be a team that has a scheme that plays to his strength as a speedy slot receiver, or will he go to a team that picks him as the best available player on the board.
If the “right” team picks him, Newsome may emerge a sleeper due to his ability to make catches in tight spaces and make players miss.
Prediction: Sixth Round, #197 overall to New England.