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2023 NFL Draft Preview: Scouting report on Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon

Witherspoon is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 19 Illinois at Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Update: This is a bumped up column originally written on February 26 (so pre-combine). The Seattle Seahawks selected Witherspoon with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

As highlighted in multiple previous articles, cornerback is a need for this Seattle Seahawks team that will likely be addressed this offseason. We have covered many of the top cornerbacks in this year’s class and in this one we will review another Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon.

Height - 6 foot - Weight - 183

Games watched - 2022 Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, Chattanooga

Previous cornerback scouting reports - Joey Porter Jr., Christian Gonzalez, Kelee Ringo


  • His best attribute is his very good (7 on 1-9 scouting scale) athleticism which shows up on almost every play. Witherspoon has extremely fluid hips that allow him to flip in and out of breaks with ease on double moves and out of press positioning.
  • Witherspoon additionally has very good (7) play speed. Even if he is sloppy out of his press or cedes too much separation in off coverage, he has the make-up speed necessary to get right back in on the play.
  • Witherspoon has a rapid trigger that allows him to shoot up field and make a play on anything underneath when in zone. He is very twitchy as an athlete as he looks like a receiver with his movements.
  • On man coverage routes where he is patient with his leverage and isn’t too aggressive with opening his hips, he is able to stay in phase and guide the receiver to the right spot.
  • On in breaking routes in man coverage he does a great job of navigating traffic and not getting picked by other players which allows him to stay in phase.
  • His crouch in off man coverage is very good as he gets a good amount of bend in his hips whilst keeping his back flat.
  • Witherspoon gets his hands into the right spot at the catch point which does allow him to create multiple pass breakups. He also tracks the ball very well in the air which allows him to stay in phase with the receiver on deep shots and potentially make a play on the ball.
  • Witherspoon looked more than comfortable when placed in conflict in zone coverage.


  • In press coverage, rather than staying light on his toes and being patient, Witherspoon’s feet get very loud and choppy as he replaces them way too often.
  • Early in press coverage routes his upper and lower body have a tendency to get out of sync.
  • In off coverage, especially when lined up in the slot, Witherspoon has a tendency to get flatfooted, almost waiting to pick up his feet until the receiver dictates the route.
  • In off man coverage on quick hitting routes like whips, Witherspoon has a tendency to overplay the route. He anticipates something over the middle which creates a significant amount of separation the moment the receiver snaps it the other way.
  • His form tackling is extremely inconsistent. He far too often throws his shoulder into the ball carrier which allows them to make him miss or he bounces off of them.
  • His angles are very poor in the running game as well. He crashes down way too close to the line of scrimmage often willingly taking a blocker on rather than staying back and being patient. There are instances where he is supposed to be the last line of defense, but he instead is five yards away from the line, engaged with a blocker.

Floor/ceiling - Witherspoon’s combination of fluid hips, fantastic athleticism, hyper competitive play style and ball skills give him the ceiling of a high-end corner. However, his inconsistent footwork, tendencies to overplay routes, struggles with leverage at times and poor angles in run support give him the floor of a role-playing starter.

Grade - 6.5 - Low end starter, first day of second season

Grade explanation - There is a very wide gap between Witherspoon’s ceiling and floor, and I think it is equally likely that he reaches either side of it. He has about all the athletic traits that are required for someone to become a high-end corner as well as the perfect mental toughness for the position as well. However, there is a lot that needs to be corrected in his game in order for him even to become a solid starter early in his career. I believe more advanced route runners are going to take advantage of his over aggressive nature which is going to lead to some rough games. However, against less refined, more athletic receivers Witherspoon is going to more than hold his own in his rookie season and onwards. As a result of that wide variance and there being a mixture of players he will struggle and thrive against I gave him a 6.5.

Schematic fit - With where Witherspoon is currently at in his development, I think he is best suited for a more zone heavy scheme. It will allow him to use his athleticism, eyes, instincts and quick trigger to make plays on the football. If he can refine his hips and footwork a bit more, he has the abilities to play in a man heavy scheme as well.

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