NFL scouts dish on Illinois standout Devon Witherspoon as CB1 in 2023 NFL Draft
The crop of cornerbacks in this year’s NFL Draft class looks deep. And, at the top, there’s not a ton of consensus on who should be the 1st player off the board at the position. CBS Sports has Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez as the top corner. Mel Kiper has Gonzalez and Illinois standout Devon Witherspoon going back-to-back later in the top 10. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has Witherspoon going 6th and Gonzalez 8th.
If he goes in the top 10 picks, Witherspoon would be the highest-drafted player for Illinois since 1996. The school hasn’t had a 1st-round pick since 2012.
His prospects look good. ESPN’s Matt Miller spoke to NFL scouts and front-office executives to get a feel for how they rank the corner class in this year’s draft. Witherspoon came out on top of Gonzalez in that exercise, sitting in the No. 1 spot. Here’s what Miller wrote on the former Illini corner:
Witherspoon entered the 2022 season as a solid cornerback prospect and I had him as the No. 35 prospect in September. But he’s suddenly in contention to be the first cornerback off the board. There is some debate about his size (6-foot, 181 pounds) and scheme fit, but scouts love his coverage instincts, quick feet and toughness. And many of the scouts I spoke with believe he’s destined to be a top-10 pick.
“I love the way he plays,” said one AFC college scouting director. “For a smaller cornerback, he’s super physical, loves to hit and is always around the ball.”
“He’s better than a lot of the guys in recent years, maybe outside of Sauce [Gardner] and Pat Surtain II,” said an AFC general manager. “He’s good. I think he’ll be a top-10 cornerback early in his career.”
Witherspoon had 41 tackles, 14 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, and 2.5 tackles for loss last season. He was the highest-graded cornerback in Power 5 football, per Pro Football Focus, and had the best coverage grade of any corner in America.
The 2023 NFL Draft begins on April 27.