We didn’t see Seattle Seahawks rookie Devon Witherspoon play at all in preseason and not even in in the regular season opener due to injury, but the past three games has shown why Seattle took the former Illinois cornerback with the No. 5 overall pick.
Perhaps fittingly, Witherspoon comes in at No. 5 in ESPN’s list of top performing rookies in the early stages of the 2023 NFL season. Here’s what NFL analyst Matt Miller had to say about Devon’s play thus far:
Stats: 23 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 defensive TD
Drafted: No. 5 overall
A hamstring injury suffered in training camp meant a slow start to the season for Witherspoon, but in three games, he has shown why he was the top defensive back drafted in April. Witherspoon has one interception — which he returned 97 yards for a touchdown — four pass breakups and a pair of sacks. Given his instincts and the fact that opposing offenses have to choose between challenging him or Riq Woolen, it stands to reason he’ll have plenty of opportunities to add more interceptions this season.
Seattle seems determined to put Witherspoon in a position to make plays in the passing game and as a blitzer, so expect legitimate DROY numbers from him. — Miller
Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud has been phenomenal and hasn’t even thrown an interception yet, so he’s understandably the top rookie on the list. Jalen Carter comes in 2nd with his strong start to his Philadelphia Eagles career, which probably would’ve made this place deeply angry had Witherspoon not performed the way he has (and, secondarily, Jarran Reed at nose tackle). Witherspoon is the second-highest ranked defensive player, and it’s likely that Defensive Rookie of the Year will be between him and Carter now that New England Patriots corner Christian Gonzalez is out for the season.
WItherspoon is the only Seahawks player to make this list and frankly no one else has a case, so it’s not like there’s any snubbing going on. If he keeps this up then the Seahawks really could have one of the best cornerback duos in the league between him and Riq Woolen.
One thing to note is that our SB Nation Writers’ Mock Draft had Seattle taking Tyree Wilson (my pick) and Michael Mayer (John Gilbert’s pick) at No. 5 and No. 20, respectively. While I wrote at the time that Wilson wasn’t even among my top two choices, I still went with him and he was undeniably one of the more common names chosen by mock drafters. The Las Vegas Raiders took both players and so far they’ve done nothing. ESPN names Wilson as the biggest underperformer with his 0 sacks and a 4.3% pass rush win rate, while Mayer has 3 catches for 41 yards on 5 targets.