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Report: The Seahawks drafted Devon Witherspoon before the Lions could

Seattle’s rare decision to take a cornerback in Round 1 apparently changed some plans for the Detroit Lions.

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks broke from tradition under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, taking Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the No. 5 overall pick. It’s the first time they’ve taken a cornerback earlier than Round 3, and if there was any additional surprise it’s the fact that they bypassed Jalen Carter and Tyree Wilson despite the defensive line being a bigger position of need.

My initial reaction to the pick was that Seattle could’ve gotten him a few spots lower in the draft with a trade down. It turns out I’m extremely wrong, and had the Seahawks traded down (or drafted someone else), Witherspoon would’ve stayed in Big Ten country with the next pick.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer has the inside scoop on the Detroit Lions’ draft plans:

As for one of the Cardinals’ trade partners, the key to the Lions’ draft was adjusting on the fly. Sitting with the sixth pick didn’t work out for them. Detroit GM Brad Holmes figured if Arizona picked Johnson at No. 3, then one of the two completely clean defenders he saw in the class, Anderson or Illinois Devon Witherspoon, would slip to him. Then, the Cardinals traded out, the Texans took Anderson, and everything got thrown in a blender.

Holmes and Dan Campbell were facing a scenario where the Colts would take a quarterback and Witherspoon, who they’d targeted for months, would land in Seattle. And while the Lions figured the Seahawks might not pull the trigger—GM John Schneider had taken only one corner in the top 100 in 13 drafts in Seattle, and that one was the 90th pick (Shaquill Griffin in 2015)—Detroit still had to prepare for the possibility.

We didn’t think we’d do this at six, Holmes said to Campbell, but who cares? He’s our favorite guy left.

That guy was Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs.

My sense is Detroit felt the same way about him as they did Witherspoon—who they targeted months ago, and who they tried to hide their intentions on (they didn’t have Gibbs in for a 30 visit, and Holmes and Campbell stayed away from his pro day). And who, ultimately, they hoped to pair with Witherspoon.

The initial idea was to get Witherspoon (or Anderson) at No. 6, then trade up from 18 to get Gibbs. Then Arizona traded out, the Colts took Anthony Richardson and, finally, to the Lions’ chagrin, the Seahawks took the draft’s top corner, a scenario under which, indeed, Detroit was ready to say who cares? and break the internet by taking Gibbs.

We’ll ignore that Breer was a couple of years off on when the Seahawks drafted Shaquill Griffin and instead focus on the main story, which is Detroit’s interest in Witherspoon. The domino effect of the Houston Texans trading up with the Arizona Cardinals to draft Will Anderson, combined with the Seahawks drafting Witherspoon led to Detroit trading down for Jamhyr Gibbs.

Another side-story related to the Witherspoon pick is Seahawks GM John Schneider’s comments that trading up (presumably for a quarterback) wasn’t really an option, and there were two players they were set on picking at No. 5 if one of them was available. Witherspoon was obviously one, but the other? Will Anderson.

Seattle plays Detroit at Ford Field this year, so hopefully we’ll get to see Witherspoon showcase his talents against the team that would’ve drafted him at No. 6 before the Seahawks swooped in to bolster their cornerback group.