Illinois football has some special talents for the 2023 season
The Illini had one of the best seasons in decades in 2022. We’ve had eight wins this season and the players have taken the team to great heights. Illinois also selected several players for the 2023 NFL Draft, including No. 5 overall pick Devon Witherspoon.
However, we could have picked more players in the draft. Keith Randolph Jr. and Johnny Newton could have declared, and both would have been selected in the first five rounds. But they didn’t. They decided to return to Illinois to try and win even more on the football field one more time.
With the return of the law firm of Randolph and Newton, they get their first pre-season recognition of the potential they have for the upcoming season.
Keith Randolph Jr. and Johnny Newton have a chance to increase their NFL draft stock with the Illinois football team this season
Last Thursday, Athlon Sports released its All-American preseason teams. The teams have the usual names. USC quarterback Caleb Williams and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. both made the first team. Another well-known name in this squad is Newton.
That’s right, Illinois has a preseason All-American first team at Newton. After a sophomore season in which he was nearly unanimously named for the All-American junior team, Newton is poised to make the leap to the first team. He has all the skills in the world and I expect he will have a great year.
You don’t have to scroll too far to find Randolph on an All-American roster as well. Athlon Sports has named Randolph to their preseason third-team All-American roster. He earned that honor with a great campaign in 2022, in which Randolph made the All Big Ten team and finished with 53 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
🔸 @AthlonSports Preseason All-Americans
The law firm: @Johnny5Newton And @Randolph_22 #Illini // #HTTO // #famILLy pic.twitter.com/ym8sgesziX
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) May 26, 2023
These two talented defensive linemen are getting plenty of pre-season kudos, and their performance in the 2023 season could really add to their 2024 NFL draft pick if they play well.
Currently, in most 2024 mock drafts, Newton is selected in the mid-to-late first round. With a good year he could easily climb into the top 10. NFL teams need good defensive linemen.
Randolph’s best performance I’ve seen early in the sixth lap. With his athletic ability and speed, I could easily imagine him skyrocketing the NFL draft boards. If he can have a good year in 2023, there’s no telling how high Randolph could climb. I wouldn’t be shocked if he sneaked into the back end on the first lap.
Illinois has some great talent heading into the 2023 season. Our line of defense is the best I’ve seen in over a decade. Let’s watch this legendary duo dominate this season.