After much mystery surrounding whether the Seahawks would move up or down from the No.5 pick, they stayed put, selecting Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon. Here are three things to know about the newest addition to Seattle's secondary.
1) Pro Football Focus 2022 King of The Hill
Witherspoon's senior campaign for the Fighting Illini was his best, nabbing a career-high three interceptions along with 17 passes defensed. The scrappy corner showcased his run support skills, combining for 41 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. But the Pensacola native soared to the top of Pro Football Focus’ coverage rankings for all corners across the nation. Per PFF, Witherspoon allowed just 35.5 percent of the 62 passes thrown his way to be completed. Of the 22 receptions allowed, none were given up for a touchdown.
Gordon McGuinness of PFF breaks down why Witherspoon earned a 92.5 grade in 2022, and his No.1 position.
The draft class leader in PFF coverage grade, Witherspoon allowed just 35.5% of the 62 passes thrown into his coverage to be caught, with none of the 22 receptions he allowed resulting in a touchdown.
His three interceptions were tied for 10th-most in the class, while his 14 pass breakups led draft-eligible players at the position.
2) 2022 Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year
2022 was a year to remember Witherspoon, becoming the first Fighting Illini to earn Consensus All-American honors in 11 years, as well as earning First Team Big Ten honors. In addition, Witherspoon took home the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award, the Big Ten’s highest honor for secondary players. It is the first time that a Fighting Illini defender has won the award since its inception in 2011. The dual-award honors Ohio State Legend safety Jack Tatum and Purdue Legend cornerback/safety Rod Woodson.
3) Competitive Nature
To call Witherspoon a “late-bloomer” would be a bit of an understatement, as he didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school. It took a lot of work to make the leap to a first-round selection, but the Pine Forest High alum adjusted quickly. A year after picking up the game officially, Witherspoon was named the Pensacola Defensive Player of the Year by the Pensacola News Journal.
After committing to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Witherspoon earned his way on the field immediately, playing 389 snaps as a true freshman. In 12 games, Witherspoon combined for 33 tackles and 2 pass deflections. Over the last two seasons, Witherspoon climbed the ranks of the nation's best corners, nabbing 3 interceptions and recording 23 pass breakups. But the stats don't tell the full story, as Witherspoon has won over many insiders with his aggressive style of play and competitive nature.
"There's also a corner I like," said Smith. "He has a good mental makeup, he has good range and could be the first corner off the board. That's Devin Witherspoon from Illinois. He's really good in off-coverage, which says a lot because you need great hips and flexibility against the modern-day wideouts. I think he is the full package at the cornerback position."
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.