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2023 NFL Draft prospect profile - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Will Witherspoon be the first cornerback off the board?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The cornerback position might just be the deepest and most talented position group in the 2023 NFL Draft class — and it might just be the deepest cornerback class we’ve seen in some time.

There could be as many as a dozen (or maybe even more) corners drafted in the top 100 picks of this year’s class. What’s more, most of those corners should go on to seize starting jobs early on in their career. But who will be the first cornerback drafted?

There are several contenders to be the first corner off the board, but Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon might be the best pure cover corner in the draft class. He isn’t the biggest or most athletic corner in the draft, but

Prospect: Devon Witherspoon (31)
Games Watched: vs. Wyoming (2022), vs. Chattanooga (2022), vs. Wisconsin (2022), vs. Minnesota (2022)


Courtesy Kent Lee Platte (@mathbomb) |

Career Stats

Games Played: 41
Tackles: 157
Tackles for a loss: 11.5
Sacks: 1.0
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 25
Interceptions: 5

2022 Stats

Games Played: 12
Tackles: 41
Tackles for a loss: 2.5
Sacks: 0.0
Forced fumbles: 0
Passes defensed: 14
Interceptions: 2

Quick Summary

Best: Hip fluidity, foot quickness, coverage ability, competitive toughness, versatility
Worst: Long speed, size
Projection: A starting outside corner with scheme diversity.

Game Tape

(Witherspoon is Illinois CB No. 31)

Full Report

Devon Witherspoon is an athletic cover corner from the University of Illinois with “shutdown potential”.

Witherspoon is a smooth, athletic corner with experience on both the left and right side of the defense, as well as motioning into the slot when the personnel package and play call demand it. He also has experience in a variety of coverage schemes, playing off and press man coverage, as well as zone coverage. He is a smooth and effective cover corner and was able to execute every coverage technique asked of him.

Witherspoon has a quick, compact backpedal that allows him to get good depth in his zone drops while maintaining good balance. He has solid awareness in space and does a good job of keeping an eye in the backfield while maintaining his awareness of the play around him. He picks up and passes off receivers going through his coverage zone well and maintains the integrity of his zone without getting “stuck” on any receiver. Likewise, he doesn’t fall for misdirection and is quick to rally to the ball on underneath plays.

Witherspoon is also a very capable man coverage corner. He has very quick feet and oily hips, easily allowing him to open his hips and transition from his backpedal to running with receivers, while keeping his speed. Witherspoon’s hips allow him to get and stay in phase with receivers and even stay in the hip pocket of shifty receivers through their breaks.

He has a quick closing burst and good awareness to challenge the ball at the catch point. He wasn’t tested often in his final year at Illinois, and responded well whenever he was. Teams that threw to receivers he was covering often saw the ball fall incomplete.

There are few true weaknesses in Witherspoon’s game. He’s a talented, athletic, and well-rounded corner. That said, he does have less-than-ideal long speed which can show up against speedier receivers on vertical routes. He was beaten deep on several occasions and lacks the raw speed necessary to recover if he’s beaten early in the rep.

Witherspoon also has pedestrian length and mass for the position, at least compared to some other cornerback prospects. He lacks length compared to bigger wide receivers, and has a slight build. Witherspoon isn’t exactly bullied by bigger receivers, but he could have issues against NFL caliber X receivers if he’s matched up against them in tight man coverage.

Witherspoon also didn’t have much in the way of ball production. He’s good at knocking the ball away at the catch point, but didn’t come away with many interceptions.

Overall Grade: 8.7


Devon Witherspoon projects as a starting cornerback with scheme flexibility at the NFL level. Witherspoon is able to line up and execute in man or zone coverage and has the upside to shadow most Number One receivers across the field.

His ability to play off or press man coverage, as well as any zone coverage shell should allow him to seize a starting job in any defense in the NFL. Likewise, Witherspoon is a competitive corner who won’t shy away from covering the other team’s best receiver. He is a willing run defender who seldom makes business decisions and doesn’t appear afraid to get his hands dirty around the line of scrimmage.

Witherspoon lacks size compared to some of the more physically freakish corners in the NFL, but he uses what he has well. He isn’t tall or long, but that gives him very good balance in his backpedal and in transition. He’s able to stay with receivers throughout their routes and match them when they explode out of their breaks.

Witherspoon does struggle against particularly speedy wideouts when they run vertically. He’ll either need a safety to roll coverage his way or a potent pass rush to keep quarterbacks from exploiting the separation. But despite his lack of elite physical traits, Witherspoon is a technician who should hear his name called very early on the first day of the draft.