The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at wide receiver with plenty of big names in big bodies from big schools.
But teams and fans alike would be wise not to overlook the undersized but explosive Dazz Newsome, who enters the draft after four incredibly productive seasons at North Carolina.
Newsome spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about the one-two punch he formed with Dyami Brown, his favorite route to run, what life was like growing up in Virginia, and what kind of player he’ll be at the next level.
JM: You played some cornerback and running back in addition to wide receiver in high school. You were a good player at those positions too. How did that help make you a better pass-catcher? What was the full-time transition to receiver like for you?
DN: That experience really made me a better runner if I’m being honest with you. You’ve seen what I can make happen when I get the ball in my hands. That’s where it comes from. That’s why I can take it the distance every time I touch the ball.
The transition wasn’t that difficult. The hardest part was learning how to actually run routes. We didn’t run a lot of routes in high school. When I first got to college, I wasn’t as good of a route runner as I thought I was (laughs). I really had to work on the technical aspects of route running. I also had to learn how to block. Those were the two most difficult things. Once I picked up on them, it was smooth sailing from there.
JM: That makes a lot of sense. Those are usually the two most difficult aspects of the position for a young receiver. You’re from Virginia. Your dad and brother played college football at Virginia Tech. How did you end up at North Carolina?
DZ: I remember my first visit to North Carolina. I just fell in love. I wanted to make my own lane. I’m writing my own story. I can’t be like anybody else. I had to take my own route. I looked at several offers. I had offers from Virginia Tech and Maryland, but I felt like North Carolina was the best spot for me. It was more of a family atmosphere. I connected with the players and coaching staff here more than I did anywhere else.
JM: And how do you reflect on your time at North Carolina now that you’ve had time to think about your four years there?
DN: I can’t complain. I had a great time there. I had so many great teammates. Everybody that’s coming out this year, we’re gonna play in the league for a long time. I had a great time.
JM: North Carolina is well known for deploying an offensive scheme that’s extremely friendly to play in. How did playing in that offense help you get ready for the next level?
DN: It helped me understand coverages at a high level. A lot of what we did on offense, we based it around the types of coverages we would see during a game. It gave me a great feel for how to run my routes. Where to sit down, how to break off at the top of my routes, and things of that nature.
JM: Tell me about the camaraderie you had with Dyami Brown. I thought you guys formed one of the most exciting one-two punches at the receiver position in all of college football.
DN: Dyami Brown is gonna play in the league for a long time. That’s my brother right there. I love him like a brother. He’s gonna be a baller at the next level. We had a lot of fun together.
JM: When I turn the tape on, I see a good route runner with excellent separation quickness. It’s funny to hear you say that route running was one of the things you struggled with early on. I think you’re a great route runner now. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
DN: I’ve always worked hard at it. I work hard during practice and I put in extra work away from the practice field as well. It’s all about repetition. You can’t become a better route runner without putting a ton of work into it.
JM: You spent most of your time playing as a slot receiver at North Carolina. Is that where NFL teams see you playing at the next level? I imagine you’ve gathered some good intel on that through your Zoom meetings.
DN: Yeah, most of them are saying that I’ll play in the slot. I spoke with one coach that said he thinks I can play the Z position for them. I feel like I can play anywhere, but most teams see me as a slot receiver. I can even play running back if a team wants me to.
JM: Do you have a favorite route to run?
DN: I like running a pivot route. I ran a lot of slants at North Carolina. I can make a lot of good things happen with those routes. Because I ran so many slants out of the slot, I can disguise that pivot route pretty well. I get wide open with that one.
JM: We saw that on tape. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams virtually. What’s that process been like for you, and who are some of the teams that you’ve met with?
DN: I feel like I’ve met with just about every team in the league. I haven’t met with the Cowboys, Falcons, Texans, or Bengals. There may be three or four more teams I haven’t met with. Other than that, I’ve met with everybody at least once.
JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. Earlier, you talked about your ability to play the running back position. I’m not surprised to hear you say that. We saw how great you are with the ball in your hands. Yards after the catch is a big part of your game. Tell us about that.
DN: I credit that to growing up in Hampton, Virginia. My dad was a coach. Before I was playing football, I was a waterboy for a long time (laughs). I’ve been a waterboy since I was six years old. My first year playing football, I just soaked everything up. I always watched my dad coach the game. I watched how guys played with the ball in their hands in Virginia. I watched what they did after the catch. I took little things from everybody’s game. I always paid close attention.
We had some great players in my area. My older brother Deon Newsome played football. I watched Tyrod Taylor play high school football. My older cousin David Watford played quarterback for Hampton University. I just grew up around ballplayers. A lot of great guys came up in Hampton. I took something from everybody and I ran with it.
JM: It sounds like you grew up around the game. If you could sit down and talk football with any receiver in the NFL, who would you choose and why?
DZ: Can I pick somebody from the past? I would pick Steve Smith. He’s my favorite NFL player of all time. He’s just a dog. I love how much of a competitor he is. I want to approach the game the same way he did.
JM: That’s a terrific choice. He would have a lot of knowledge to share with you. I’ve appreciated your time. In closing, what kind of impact is Dazz Newsome gonna make at the next level?
DN: I’m gonna make an immediate impact. I’m gonna be a hard worker. I’m gonna listen to my coaches and let them help me become a better player. I’m very coachable in that sense. I wanna make my teammates proud.