The Seattle Seahawks chose cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. This was by far the highest Seattle has chosen a CB since head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider came to Seattle in 2010. Before Witherspoon, Shaquill Griffin was the highest CB pick and that was in the third round of the 2017 draft.
In other words, Witherspoon should be special. He allowed just 22 completions when targeted in 2022 in his last year at the University of Illinois. None of those completions went for a touchdown.
5 questions about the Seattle Seahawks new cornerback, Devon Witherspoon
12th Man Rising: What are three of your biggest takeaways from Witherspoon at Illinois and what did he do best?
Rees Woodcock: First, Witherspoon didn’t come up in the recruiting rankings with a golden spoon. He had to work for everything. He had zero stars and wasn’t ranked when it came to recruiting. Witherspoon will work hard because that is all he has done his entire time in football.
Secondly, I always loved that Witherspoon could pick things up quickly. He was thrown to the wolves from day one at Illinois and has been able to learn on the fly. He is a very quick learner. My guess is that he is going to pick up the speed and the tendencies fairly quickly at the NFL level.
Lastly, Witherspoon’s best attribute, besides his ability to learn quickly, was his aggression. He would blanket wide receivers and wouldn’t let them get space. I was always amazed by his ability to keep up with some of the best athletes in the country.
12th Man Rising: What are a few things he might need to work on to be successful in the NFL?
Rees Woodock: Honestly, there isn’t much Witherspoon needs to work on. There is a reason he was the No. 5 overall pick and a consensus first-team All-American. If I had to pinpoint anything, it would probably be finding a fine line of being too aggressive. He is probably going to get some bad pass-interference penalties in the NFL early on. He will learn how to adjust, though.
Witherspoon will probably need to work on adjusting to the size and speed of NFL wide receivers. He won’t be playing Rutgers anymore. I would imagine that is going to be a huge adjustment. Thankfully, he has someone like DK Metcalf lining up across from him, so Witherspoon should be able to get acclimated quickly.
12th Man Rising: The Seahawks chose Witherspoon fifth overall which is by far the highest a CB has been taken since Pete Carroll became head coach. What separates him from other CBs in his class and maybe even from the 2022 class?
Rees Woodcock: There are a lot of great cornerbacks at the college level, but I think the thing that separates okay cornerbacks from great ones at the NFL level is intangibles. The fact Witherspoon has been doubted his entire career has put a chip on his shoulder. He has that dog in him, and that is something that you can’t see on paper or in meetings with scouts for the NFL Draft. His work ethic will stand out from day one.
12th Man Rising: As far as Witherspoon among his teammates, how do you think he was viewed?
Rees Woodcock: I believe Witherspoon was viewed as a leader. He was the best player on one of the best defenses in the country. He was a leader by example of how to do things on and off the field. Witherspoon’s mentality was infectious.
12th Man Rising: What is the ceiling for Witherspoon and what is the floor?
Rees Woodcock: This is a tough question. I think Witherspoon could easily come into the NFL and be a dominant cornerback from day one. He has great ball instincts. His athletic ability and drive could easily make him a perennial Pro Bowler. I would say his ceiling is probably someone like Charles Woodson. I think he could be that good.
I just don’t see Witherspoon being a bust by any means. He is going to come in and give Seattle big-time snaps early on. The floor isn’t that low for Witherspoon. I am going to say that you are looking at a floor of Asante Samuel.
This could end up biting me down the road, but Witherspoon is going to make numerous Pro Bowl appearances with the Seahawks. I see multiple All-Pro selections in his future as well. He is an elite-level player, and Seattle won’t regret making this pick.