Devon Witherspoon DRAFT PROFILE – 2023 NFL DRAFT
Devon Witherspoon NFL DRAFT SCOUTING REPORT INTRODUCTION
After finishing at Pine Forest High School, Witherspoon attended Hutchinson Community College because he was academically ineligible. He improved his grades and transferred to join the Illinois football team despite not receiving significant attention from college recruiters.
During his freshman year in 2019, Witherspoon unexpectedly impacted the field as a cornerback for the Fighting Illini. He played in 12 games and accumulated a total of 389 snaps, resulting in 16 tackles, 8 assists, and 6 stops. Witherspoon also demonstrated his defensive skills by achieving 2 pass breakups and a solid QB rating of 76.6 when targeted. He was supposed to just be contributing by making special teams tackles, but got corner snaps and made the most of them.
As a sophomore in 2020, Witherspoon played in 7 games and had a total of 467 snaps for the team. He managed to make 24 tackles, 12 assists, and 5 stops. While covering, Witherspoon obtained 2 interceptions; however, his QB rating when targeted was not impressive, standing at 122.6.
During his junior year in 2021, Witherspoon continued to make significant contributions on the field, playing in 10 games and participating in 740 snaps. He made 46 tackles, 3 assists, and 19 stops, and forced 6 pass breakups. Witherspoon also showed improvement in his defensive abilities, as his QB rating when targeted increased to 86.9.
Witherspoon’s senior year in 2022 was an exceptional one, with him featuring in 12 games and playing 738 snaps. He recorded 32 tackles, 7 assists, and 16 stops, showcasing his impressive skills on the field. Witherspoon also had a phenomenal performance in coverage, obtaining 14 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, and giving up an outstanding QB rating of only 24.6 when targeted.
He will go down as one of the best cornerbacks in Illinois history.
Devon Witherspoon DRAFT PROFILE
Devon Witherspoon, the cornerback for Illinois, is a standout NFL draft prospect who possesses excellent man coverage skills, physicality, and impressive ball production abilities. With his aggressive and combative approach to defending, he can serve as a high-impact player at the next level, either on the inside or outside.
Witherspoon has a natural instinct for finding the football, whether in man coverage or in run support. He excels at playing the hands of receivers, making it difficult for them to make catches.
Additionally, he has developed a reputation for being a big hitter due to his excellent timing and confidence in tackling form. His ability to time his challenges to the football in the air allows him have passes defended and possibly a forced fumble. Despite only having played football since his junior year of high school, Witherspoon’s instincts and skills are impressive and offer significant potential for further growth as he continues to immerse himself in the game.
While he was effective in both man and zone during the past season with Illinois, he is undoubtedly a better man defender.
He struggles a bit with eyes in the backfield, which can open the door for him to be manipulated by experienced quarterbacks. Despite his smaller stature, he possesses an impressive hitting power, but his size may raise concerns about his ability to press up against larger receivers at the line of scrimmage. This, coupled with his ability to tackle and fit the run, makes him an ideal candidate for a nickel defender, which is a valuable position in today’s NFL.
Witherspoon’s play style, physical abilities, and versatility make him a highly appealing prospect for NFL teams. The only question will be whether or not he can be effective playing on the outside or if his frame limits him to playing in the slot. However, with further refinement, Witherspoon could become an impact starter in a man-heavy system.
Unfortunately, the Fighting Illini corner opted out of the senior bowl.
Devon Witherspoon 40 YARD DASH- 4.41 SECONDS
Devon Witherspoon NFL DRAFT PLAYER COMPARISON- Joe Haden
SCOUTING REPORT- STRENGTHS
With his impressive speed and length, Witherspoon is well-suited to covering slot receivers on short patterns in four-wide sets. He has the potential to become a starter quickly, thanks to his combination of length and speed, which allows him to read receivers’ routes and anticipate throws at the first down marker. With a sharp ability to read the quarterback’s eyes, Witherspoon can quickly determine the routes and close in on the ball with great straight-line speed.
Witherspoon’s man coverage skills have been exceptional, particularly in 2022, where he has demonstrated a thorough understanding of routes and an impressive ability to close quickly.
He has quick feet, allowing him to mirror receivers on short routes while also possessing fluid hips and top-end speed, enabling him to turn and run downfield with ease. His ability to drop into zone coverage is excellent, with good route recognition and the ability to break quickly and cover large areas of the field.
Despite excelling in man coverage, Witherspoon may still have the skills to thrive as a zone defender. His closing speed makes him an excellent option for wrapping up receivers after the catch. He is ultra-competitive and maintains a relentless motor on the field, demonstrating confidence that never wavers. With excellent quick area quickness and change of direction ability, Witherspoon possesses a great feel for complex route concepts and can match receivers to make plays at the catch point.
With his length and physicality, Witherspoon has the ability to re-route receivers effectively. He also possesses absurd ball skills at catch point and production, along with physicality that carries over to the run game. Overall, Witherspoon is an impressive NFL draft prospect with a range of skills and abilities that make him a valuable asset on the field.
SCOUTING REPORT- WEAKNESSES
Devon Witherspoon, the cornerback for Illinois, is a player with immense potential but is still in need of some refinement in certain areas of his game. One area where he could improve is in his pursuit angles, as he sometimes takes inefficient routes when chasing down ball carriers. Additionally, he needs to work on his tackling technique to ensure that he can consistently bring down opponents, especially in run support.
When lining up in press coverage, Witherspoon has struggled due to his undersized and underpowered physique. While he has the length and speed to stay with receivers, he lacks the power in his punch, making it difficult for him to disrupt their timing. Witherspoon is thin and has an extremely slight frame, weighing in at less than 180 pounds, which could limit his ability to hold up against larger opponents in the NFL. He may need to put on some weight to be effective at the next level.
Witherspoon is an aggressive player who sometimes is over eager takes unnecessary risks, leading him to jump routes in search of the big play. While this can result in turnovers, it can also leave him vulnerable to getting beaten by receivers who take advantage of his aggressiveness. He needs to learn when to pick his spots and play more conservatively to avoid getting burned, while not reducing his knack at being a physical defender which contributes his skill playing football in man.
Despite possessing impressive timed speed, Witherspoon doesn’t always play up to his potential on the field. This could be due to a lack of focus or some other mental factor that needs to be addressed.
It’s clear that Witherspoon is a much better man corner than he is in zone coverage. He excels at playing receiver’s hands and disrupting a route, using his impressive length and speed to stay with them step for step. In contrast, he is not as effective in zone coverage, where he may struggle to read the field and make quick decisions.
While he was elite in 2022, Witherspoon was merely good for the rest of his college career, indicating that he may still be in the process of developing his skills. He has shown significant growth over the years, but there is still room for improvement. It would have been nice to have seen him at the senior bowl, but he opted out.
With his raw talent and work ethic, however, there is every reason to believe that Witherspoon could emerge as a top-tier cornerback in the NFL if he continues to hone his skills and address his weaknesses.
Devon Witherspoon NFL DRAFT SUMMARY
You don’t have to do too much tape study to see that the Illinois standout is the best natural cover corner in the 2023 draft class, and his potential as a pro corner is virtually limitless.
While he may need to work on his physique to ensure that he can hold up to the rigors of an NFL season, his combination of speed, instincts, and aggressiveness makes him an incredibly valuable asset to any team. Witherspoon is a guaranteed first-round selection, and we expect him to make an immediate impact at the next level.
- Best man cornerback of his draft class; outstanding athelete
- Day 1 impact defensive starter who does everything well with no glaring weaknesses
- Three year starter
- Needs to bulk up to better make tackles in ground game and handle physical receivers
- Needs more weight to his frame
- Lacking refinement on nuanced parts of his game; i.e. angles on the ball
Training camp will be important for the Illinois star as his team will need to get a feel through a lot of reps how best to use this versatile star. We have him ranked as our 33rd ranked prospect overall in the 2023 NFL draft. He is quickly climbing up draft boards and could go as high at 10 to the Philadelphia Eagles. He is our 5th ranked corner behind Christian Gonzalez, Kelee Ringo, Joey Porter Jr., and Cam Smith.