Vikings Draft Thermometer: CB Devon Witherspoon

Vikings Draft Thermometer: CB Devon Witherspoon
Nov 6, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) celebrates a win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fourth quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Vikings Draft Thermometer series, PurplePTSD‘s one-stop shop for all your 2023 NFL Draft needs. Throughout this series, we will be examining a number of prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, what exactly their role could be at the NFL level, and most importantly, whether or not they could end up playing their first NFL snaps in a Vikings uniform. With that, let’s take a look at today’s prospect: Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon.

Background

Sep 2, 2022; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Cam Camper (6) runs with the ball after a catch while Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) defends in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Height: 6’0
  • Weight: 180 pounds
  • School: Illinois
  • Games Watched: Wyoming (2022), Minnesota (2022), Wisconsin (2022)

Statistics

Nov 14, 2020; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) intercepts a pass intended for Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton (18) during the second half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2019: 33 tackles, 2 pass defenses (12 games)
  • 2020: 31 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 3 FRs (7 games)
  • 2021: 52 tackles, 8 TFLs, 1 sack, 9 pass defenses (10 games)
  • 2022: 41 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 14 pass defenses, 3 INTs (12 games)

Strengths

Wisconsin wide receiver Chimere Dike (13) is unable to grab a pass thrown by quarterback Graham Mertz while being covered by Illinois defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) during the third quarter of their game Saturday, October 1, 2022 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Illinois beat Wisconsin 34-10. Uwgrid01 10

Outside of having a smaller frame, Devon Witherspooon is everything you could want out of a CB prospect. His speed and athleticism combined with extreme physicality and technically sound coverage skills allow him to play either in the slot or on the outside.

Witherspoon has a knack for sniffing out the ball, and he made multiple big plays in 2022 by using his ball skills to intercept passes. He dominates matchups at the line of scrimmage with his desire to make things physical as well.

This physicality shows up in run support as well. If Witherspoon isn’t breaking up passes downfield, he is mucking things up in the trenches with the big boys. If a wide receiver is forced to try to block him, they are no match for him as he easily sheds blockers.

Weaknesses

Oct 1, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) breaks up the pass during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest knock on Witherspoon is going to be his size. There are multiple CBs projected to go around the same time as Witherspoon that weigh 200+ pounds. Meanwhile, Witherspoon is just 180. This could cause concern that he’ll be bullied at the NFL level.

In addition, he can get a little bit too handsy at times. Some of the things he got away with in college likely won’t fly in the NFL, so penalties early on in his career are somewhat of a concern. There’s also the wonder that, since he played in the Big 10-West, there wasn’t a lot of top wide receiver competition. Perhaps he comes back down to earth a little bit in the pros.

NFL Projection

Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) breaks up a pass intended for Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) during overtime at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft Round: Top 10-Mid First
  • Immediate Role: Starting outside corner, could also swap into the slot
  • Best Case Scenario: Jaire Alexander
  • Vikings Draft Temperature (0= no interest, 100= get him a purple jersey right now): 15

If Devon Witherspoon was bigger, he’d be a lock to become a top 10 pick in the 2023 Draft. He’s extremely athletic and versatile, but ultimately, size will likely put Christian Gonzalez and perhaps Kelee Ringo ahead of him. Either way, he’ll be off the board long before the Vikings are on the clock, unless Kwesi Adofo-Mensah works a massive trade to move up.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

Share: