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Could Devon Witherspoon be Ron Rivera’s First Ever First Round Draft Pick at Corner?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Witherspoon, CB

School: Illinois | Conference: Big Ten

College Experience: Senior | Age: 22

Height / Weight: 5’1112” / 181 lbs

Projected Draft Status: 1st Round

College Statistics

Defense & Fumbles Table
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2019 Illinois Big Ten FR DB 12 23 10 33 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 2 0 0
2020 Illinois Big Ten SO DB 7 18 13 31 1.0 0.0 2 0 0.0 0 0 3 1
2021 Illinois Big Ten SO DB 10 42 10 52 8.0 1.0 0 0 0 9 0 0
*2022 Illinois Big Ten SR DB 12 32 9 41 2.5 0.0 3 97 32.3 0 14 0 0 0 0
Career Illinois 115 42 157 11.5 1.0 5 97 19.4 0 25 3 0 0 1
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 4/10/2023.

Player Overview

At 5’1112" 181 pounds, Devon Witherspoon is the definition of a playmaker in the defensive secondary. Although he doesn’t have the size of some of the top corners in the 2023 NFL draft, he makes up for his lack of length and bulk with great instincts, speed and a big-hitter mentality.

In 2022 Witherspoon had a breakout season in Champaign on his way to earning first team Associated Press All-American honors, racking up 42 total tackles (2.5 for a loss), 17 passes defended and three interceptions over 12 games. He was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

Witherspoon didn’t participate in drills at the NFL Combine due to a hamstring injury, but he held a private pro day April 5th where he answered any questions NFL front offices had about his speed, running a 4.42 40.


  • Plays much bigger than his listed size in run support
  • Good straight-line speed
  • Excellent recognition in screen game and will fly up to disrupt the play
  • Fluid hips allow for smooth re-direction in off-man coverage
  • Instincts allowed him to peel off man in zone coverage and jump underneath routes
  • Anticipates routes well and often knows where the receiver is going before the break
  • Very solid in hip-trail and will mirror receivers' hands when ball is in the air and adjust to make a play
  • Student of the game


  • Lacks ideal bulk and length for the position
  • Tends to be a bit grabby at the stem
  • Good eye discipline, but will often bite on double-moves while trying to make a play
  • Will flourish when play stays in front of him versus having to chase

How he would fit in Washington...

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.


Would Devon Witherspoon be a good pick for the Commanders at 16?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Yes - He comes at a premium position of need
    (312 votes)
  • 12%
    No - I think 16 is too high for him
    (55 votes)
  • 16%
    Trade back - even if he’s on the board
    (74 votes)
441 votes total Vote Now