VIDEO — 2023 NFL Draft either/or: Devon Witherspoon or any other cornerback?
Now that the scouting combine is right around the corner, it’s time for Doug Farrar and Luke Easterling to put on their imaginary general manager hats and make some personnel decisions with draft prospects. It’s Either/Or time! In this case, we’re giving Doug and Luke an interesting choice: You can have Illinois cornerback Devin Witherspoon, or every other cornerback in this draft class. Turns out, the decision was pretty easy.
Doug: This seems like a tough one, but it isn’t for me. In the first Top 50 of the 2023 draft season I released last week, I had Witherspoon at CB1 and the fifth-best prospect in this class. I then had Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez at ninth overall, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. at 11, South Carolina’s Cam Smith at 23, Alabama’s Brian Branch at 24, Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes at 27, and on and on. There are cornerbacks I need to watch more who could vault up that board by the time 2.0 comes out after the combine, like Maryland’s Deonte Banks, who I have right below the first round at 35th overall.
But here’s one thing I don’t think will change for me between now and the draft: Witherspoon is the best cornerback in this class, and his combination of size, speed, short-area quickness, and smart aggression set him apart. Most taller, lankier cornerbacks don’t have Witherspoon’s ability to adjust to routes in short spaces, and most smaller cornerbacks can’t just erase a receiver like Witherspoon can. In the 2022 season, per Pro Football Focus, he allowed 22 receptions on 63 targets for 206 yards, 71 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, three interceptions, 14 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 25.0. Which means that a quarterback facing Witherspoon was much better off chucking the ball out of the stadium than targeting him.
It’s a loaded cornerback class with all kinds of skills on display, but yes, I’d take Witherspoon over the field. Without a second thought. He’s my guy if I’m a general manager, because I can build my whole secondary around talent like that.
Luke: When I first dove into Witherspoon’s tape, I really didn’t expect to like him that much more than every other corner in this class, but I did. There just aren’t any flaws, man. He’s big enough, fast enough, twitchy enough, smart enough. He’s got the technique, the instincts, the timing, the toughness. He does everything at such a high level, you’re almost waiting for the catch at some point, but it never comes. My most recent big board had Witherspoon at No. 4 overall, trailing only Will Anderson, Jalen Carter, and Bijan Robinson. I LOVE the top of this corner class, too…I just think Witherspoon is still just that good, though.