BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA - SEPTEMBER 02: Devon Witherspoon #31 of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts after a play during the first quarter in the game against the Indiana Hooisers at Memorial Stadium on September 02, 2022 in Bloomington, Indiana.

Will Illinois’s Devon Witherspoon hear his name called by the Eagles on draft night? Cornerback is a popular position to mock to the Eagles. And it is an obvious need for them. James Bradberry is pretty much already gone. While they could still resign him, that has seemed unlikely from the jump. After an All-Pro season, he will be in high demand and will be out of the Eagles’ price range. Outside him, the Eagles have Darius Slay, who has just one year left on his deal and is getting older. They also have Avonte Maddox, who has played great in the slot, but struggled when asked to play outside before. And not much of note after them. 

We already discussed Christian Gonzalez and Joey Porter Jr as fits for the Eagles. But now let’s look at Devon Witherspoon.  

The Eagles will be looking at corner on draft night. It has been a while since they took a cornerback in the first round of the draft though. The last time that happened was in 2002 with Lito Shepard. Is Devon Witherspoon the man to break that trend though? If you look at mock drafts, many writers certainly think so. Early on in the offseason, he is easily the most popular name coming up for the Eagles at pick 10.  

Would that be a good move for them though? Will Witherspoon’s dominance in college carry over to the NFL? Or was he taking advantage of poor competition at WR in the Big 10 West? He will certainly be a name to watch closely as we approach the draft. And if you were not locked into Illinois football this season, you may be looking to learn more about the potential future Eagle. So here are 5 things you should know about Devon Witherspoon before the draft.  

  • A True Shutdown Corner

    The term shutdown corner gets thrown a lot. But it is not an exaggeration when referring to what Witherspoon did to opposing WRS in College. Witherspoon had a great Sophomore season, holding opposing QBS to a QB rating of 86.9. But in his junior season, he really broke out. This last season QBs had a QB rating of just 24.6 when targeting him. To put in perspective how great that is, Christian McCaffrey had a QB rating of 39.6 against the Eagles. And all he did in that game was throw one incomplete pass. Throwing no passes against Witherspoon would lead to better results than targeting him at all.  

    Witherspoon allowed 22 receptions on 63 catchable balls all season. He forced 18 pass breakups and picked the ball of 3 times. Meaning he made a play on the ball in some way almost the same number of times he allowed a catch. Only 6 of those catches he gave up went for a first down. None went for a TD. Witherspoon is a black hole at Cornerback. He can erase whatever WR he lines up against.  

    All of that was good enough to get him named to nearly every outlet’s All-American team, as well as the All-Big 10 team. In terms of pure college production, he was the best Corner in the NCAA, and it is not close.  

  • Will Face a Large Jump in Competition

    We got into this with Christian Gonzalez too, but one downside with Witherspoon is we have not gotten to see him vs NFL WRS as much as we would like to. He plays in the Big 10 West. While that is not the AAC or Mountain West, there is not a steady stream of future NFL WRs waiting to line up against him there. He doesn’t get to regularly see Ohio State which is a pipeline for WRS to the NFL. Or Penn State who has several guys who made it to the NFL over the years.  

    He can only face the competition in front of him. And he did a fantastic job doing that. But in the NFL there will be some question of him vs the Elite NFL WRs until he proves it. He has never really lined up to someone the caliber of Tyreek Hill, or even a Cee Dee Lamb. Can he stack up? Given how great he has played probably. It is just something to keep in mind once he makes the jump to that level. 

    There is some concern about his athleticism. He has good not great speed. He is tall, but his frame is a bit slight for the typical corner. None of them has hurt him yet. But there is a chance it does at the next level. One thing he has going for him is elite-level instincts that allow him to make up for any gap in athleticism vs opponents he has faced thus far. 

  • A Certified Trash Talker

    Philly fans love players who can trash-talk. Brandom Graham is well known for it, and fans fell in love with Joel Embiid in part due to his interactions with opposing players. And Devon Witherspoon certainly knows how to jab with the opponent. And even in practice, if you are lined up against him, you will not be spared. This is what Illinois WR Casey Washington said about him. 

    “It’s just so much. It’s like you’re outside and there’s flies around you. There’s a bunch of gnats and you’re just smacking all of them and you’re good for like two seconds. You walk away and the gnats are right back in your face.” 

    And for Witherspoon, that urge to go at whomever he is competing with comes from his confidence in himself. He knows he is the best, and he will let you know it. And while that level of supreme confidence could be seen as a negative, it is kind of what you want in a cornerback. There is a reason so many of the best Cornerbacks in league history have big personalities. Deion Sanders and Darelle Revis were certainly not lacking in confidence. And Witherspoon carries himself like he is one of them.  

    His Coaches encourage that too. Here is what his college DB Coach Aaron Henry said about him. 

    “He plays the game the way you want it to be played. Especially at this position. You want him to be super confident. You want him to believe in his ability every single play; you want him to believe that he’s the best corner out there and that’s how he plays.” 

    Given how well he backs it up, he has earned the right to talk that trash. As long as he keeps erasing opposing WRs like he did in college, no one can really say much about it.  

    [Source: Pantagraph]

  • Is he a scheme fit in Philly?

    One issue with putting him in Philly is if he is a scheme fit. We do not yet know what type of coverage new Eagles DC Sean Desai will run. When in Chicago, his scheme was pretty similar to what Gannon ran. We know the Fangio school prefers Zone coverage. The issue is Witherspoon better fits a Man Coverage scheme than a Zone scheme. Could he make the change? Perhaps. His instincts will certainly give him a great chance to read plays if he is facing the QB rather than following one WR like he would in Man. But the lack of elite speed could occasionally hurt him in Zone if he does not make the right read.  

    What is good about him is even in man coverage, it is not like he was pressing on every play. In fact go back and watch Illinois on defense and you will see the CBs playing back in coverage very much like the Eagles do. So it wont be as big of a change to adapt to for Witherspoon as it might be for someone like Joey Porter Jr who is constantly pressing with the WR off the snap.

  • Not Afraid Of Contact

    There are a lot of great cornerbacks, who shy away from contact. They will cover their man better than anyone. But if you ask them to come up in run support, they may not exactly put their body on the line. That is not Devon Witherspoon. He has been known at times to drop the hit stick and leave a RB flat on his back. One notable example of that was when he blew up a RB screen vs Indiana.  

    This play shows multiple things. One, he is willing to tackle. But also, his elite instincts when it comes to diagnosing plays. He read the play as a RB screen all the way. Witherspoon put himself in the position to make this play because he saw it coming. You can be as athletic as you want. If you don’t put yourself in the right position, it will be hard to make a play. There may be more athletic corners in the draft than Witherspoon. I can’t say if there are many CBs with better Football instincts.  

    The only thing to watch for here is that his physical style of play does get him into trouble. He got flagged more than you would like a corner to.

  • 5 Things to Know About DT Bryan Bresee

    5 Things to Know About DT Bryan Bresee- Eagles Prospect Profile
  • 5 Things to Know About Christian Gonzalez

    5 Things to Know About Christian Gonzalez- Eagles Prospect Profile
  • 5 Things to Know About CB Joey Porter Jr

    5 Things to Know About CB Joey Porter Jr- Eagles Prospect Profile

Sign me up for the 97.5 The Fanatic email newsletter!

Become a Fanatic MVP to get the latest info on the Philly Sports landscape, plus access to exclusive content and member-only contests.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.