With the 16th overall selection in the 2023 SB Nation NFL Community Mock Draft, the Washington Commanders select Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon!
Let’s get the background established before we get into the draft pick. Every year the 32 NFL sites under the SB Nation umbrella participate in a two-round mock draft, and trades are allowed this year! Last year I selected Derek Stingley, Jr. as the pick I would have made as GM. It was very obvious that Rivera was eyeing the WRs last year, and that was the direction they went after a trade down to No. 16. Stingley ended up getting drafted by the Texans with the No. 3 overall pick.
This year’s focus has been on improving the offensive line and the secondary with Washington’s first-round pick. The Commanders added two offensive linemen in free agency and claimed a cornerback, but they are still expected to add more players to the positions. This year’s mock draft had some surprises, like Bijan Robinson going to the Falcons at No. 8, and Washington’s position was helped with a pair of WRs going before No. 16. Three of the top offensive linemen were off the board, while only one cornerback had been selected. Devon Witherspoon stood out as the top player available, and he was an easy choice at this spot. I did put the pick up for trade offers, but nobody jumped at the chance for Witherspoon or QB Will Levis.
The talent is there to be the best cornerback in the draft. Washington ended the William Jackson III experiment last year and relied heavily on Kendall Fuller, who will be a free agent after this season. Benjamin St-Juste improved last year, but injuries cut another season short. Washington’s cornerback depth chart is full of young players and Danny Johnson, and they need an influx of talent.
DraftKings Sportsbook is projecting Witherspoon (-150) to come off the board before Christian Gonzalez (+110) on draft night. But this mock, just like real life, is unpredictable, and in this scenario Gonzalez went to the Raiders at No. 7, leaving the Commanders a potential bargain-priced superstar here and a succession plan for Washington’s secondary.
SB Nation Mock Draft Picks
1. Carolina Panthers(from CHI): CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
2. Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, Jr., EDGE, Alabama
4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
5. Seattle Seahawks(from DEN): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
6. Detroit Lions(from LAR): Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
9. Chicago Bears(from CAR): Paris Johnson, Jr., OT, Ohio State
10. Philadelphia Eagles(from NO): Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
11. Tennessee Titans: Jaxon Smith-Njiba, WR, Ohio State
12. Houston Texans(from CLE): Jordan Addison, WR, USC
13. New York Jets: Peter Skoronski, OG, Northwestern
14. New England Patriots: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
15. Green Bay Packers: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
16. Washington Commanders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Mark Tyler’s Take:
Witherspoon is not a lock-down NFL corner who can travel with a team’s number one, but if played in a heavy zone scheme or off-man coverage, he can excel as a premier playmaker at outside corner. Jack Del Rio used a lot of cover 2 and match-up off-man in 2022, and this is where Witherspoon can shine. He will never shy away from film study, as understanding his opponent is a top priority.
Devon is excellent in run support, and this is important in the NFC East where the Commanders with face the likes of Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Rashaad Penny - all who can run effectively off-tackle.
His selection could bolster a weak cornerback room that lacks depth and impact playmakers. He should stick on the outside and bump either Fuller or St-Juste inside to the slot. His learning curve in this defense would be minimal as Illinois ran a similar style in 2022.
Washington’s defense had just nine interceptions in 2022 which was fourth worst in the NFL. Of those nine interceptions, only four were made by cornerbacks (with Kendall Fuller recording three). The lack of playmaking ability from the position has been profound under Ron Rivera’s tenure. Witherspoon could help change that.
Best players remaining:
- Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
- Joey Porter, Jr., CB, PSU
- Brian Branch, S, Alabama
- Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
- O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
What grade do you give the Devon Witherspoon pick?
This poll is closed