Previous prospect reviews:
Devon Witherspoon was ungraded coming out of high school and received a couple of offers from colleges like South Alabama and UMass. He took the best offer made to him and signed at Illinois in 2019.
In his freshman year, Witherspoon was given an opportunity early and was thrown into the fire playing a total of 321 snaps on defense as a cornerback. He recorded 18 tackles and three stops. He also allowed seven receptions for 145 yards whilst having two passes breakups. For his first year playing he was impressive allowing a quarterback rating of only 76.3.
In 2020, Witherspoon played in seven games for Illinois. He recorded 31 tackles and added five defensive stops. He struggled in the passing game allowing four touchdowns with only two interceptions. He made no PBU’s and allowed 381 yards and a QB rating of 122.6.
In 2021 as a junior, Witherspoon played 10 games for Illinois. He made 42 tackles, 19 defensive stops and also added two sacks for the year. Although Witherspoon had no interceptions he was improved as a cornerback. He made six PBU’s and a QB rating of 86.9 allowing only one touchdown.
In Witherspoon’s senior year, he exploded as a defender. He played 12 games and 738 snaps, while making 32 tackles and missing five tackles. He allowed a reception rate of only 35% for 206 yards. He made 14 PBU’s and had three interceptions for the year. What was most impressive was his elite QB rating allowed of only 25.3. Against Northwestern in his final game, Witherspoon allowed only one reception for six yards, while making two interceptions and a QB rating allowed of just 2.8.
Illinois Fighting Illini
0-star high school recruit
Arm Length- 31 1/4
2022 All-American first team
2022 All-BIG10 First Team
Run Defense- 85
Zone Coverage- 75
Man Coverage- 91
- Has the speed and agility to play both outside or in the slot and compete at the position early in his career.
- Smart recognizing routes and route concepts. High levels of awareness and good instincts to find the ball.
- Very oily hips that he can flip incredibly efficiently.
- Shows confidence and aggressiveness you want from a top corner. Has good short-term memory to forget about negative plays and return to the field with a positive attacking mentality.
- Elite foot speed. Uses his foot speed well to mirror receivers.
- Agility and change of direction is elite and is noticeable when chasing receivers in zone.
- Short area speed is one the best among this years cornerbacks.
- The best cornerback this year when defending in press-man. An elite defender in man coverage and stays physical with the receiver all the way to the ball.
- His playmaking abilities in 2022 were insane. Both in passing and running plays Witherspoon made plays on the ball and ball carrier.
- A big hitter when making tackles.
- Quick to react to run plays and closes quickly on the ball carrier. Very reliable as a run defender.
- Experience playing special teams (led Illinois in special team tackles in 2019)
- Only one good year of production. His previous three seasons were only average.
- A pure press-man defender. Struggles in zone.
- His over aggressive tendencies lead to penalties and will be something teams need to expect at the next level (11 penalties in the last two years).
- Undersized for the way he plays.
- Can take bad angles when chasing the ball carrier.
- Has a number of bad missed tackles.
- In the NFL he may only ever be a slot corner.
- Smart quarterbacks will know how to manipulate him with their eyes and movements.
Devon Witherspoon is a starting cornerback on virtually every team in the NFL. He may only be the nickel corner on most teams, but the way the NFL is evolving, the nickel corner position is as much a priority on the roster as an outside corner. His physical play style and mentality tied with his natural skills to make plays on the ball will put him high in this year’s prospect rankings. If a team can spend more time coaching the art of zone defending or tweaking some of his negative flaws he has in man coverage, he could become one of the better corners in the NFL.
Mid-first round value.
(All scout consensus ranking: 9th)