The Seahawks selected Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the No. 5 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, a move that looks to be all about drafting the best player rather than picking for need.
When general manager John Schneider was asked last week about what has been the key to the team's best drafts since he and Pete Carroll took over in 2010, he pointed to the ability to get to know the person and the competitor, and also said it was important to not "push players based on specific needs."
Coming into the draft, cornerback didn't look to be a huge need for the Seahawks, who selected Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant in last year's draft, with Woolen turning into a Pro-Bowler at right cornerback and Bryant taking over the nickel role. Mike Jackson also played well at left cornerback.
But when it came time to pick at No. 5 overall, the Seahawks still went with Witherspoon, making him the first cornerback selected in the first or second round by the Seahawks under Schneider and Carroll. Previously, Shaquill Griffin, a third-round pick in 2017, was the highest drafted corner by Carroll and Schneider.
"I feel a lot of emotions right now," Witherspoon said on a conference call with Seattle-area media. "I'm just happy and excited. I'm just ready to come to work and be a Seahawk."
Witherspoon, who is 6-foot, 185 pounds, helped Illinois have the nation's top scoring defense in 2022, earning first-team AP All-American honors. Witherspoon, who was also named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, recorded 17 passes defensed, three interceptions and 41 tackles in 12 starts.
Witherspoon, who visited Seattle as part of the pre-draft process, talked about the culture of the team and "the Legion of Boom, the history there, I know what it takes to be great like that."
While not the biggest of cornerbacks, Witherspoon is known for his hard hits and physical play.
"I'm energetic, physical, a dog on the field," he said. "I'm just very confident in what I do, passionate, and I just love to show my emotions out there on the field… (playing physical) has always been me. You've got to want to tackle, this game is about tackling, defending the run, it's everything. That's always been me. I've always been confident. I've kind of been undersized all my life, so tackling is what I do."
Witherspoon traveled with opponents' top receivers last year, though with Woolen at right cornerback, it would seem his fit in Seattle is at left corner where he would likely open camp competing with Jackson.
On potentially starting opposite Woolen, Witherspoon said, "I'm excited to be across from that guy. He's a ballhawk, he's a very talented player. I actually got a chance to play against him in college, so I know what he brings to the table. I'm ready to go out there and compete with him and be a great duo on the field."
Take a look at photos of cornerback Devon Witherspoon during his four years at Illinois. Witherspoon, a consensus All-American and Big Ten Tatum–Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in 2022, was selected by the Seahawks with the 5th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.