2023 NFL Simulated Draft: Detroit Lions select Devon Witherspoon with #6 pick

The 2023 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft is underway and over the next four weeks, members/commentators from the Pride of Detroit community will make selections for each pick in the first two rounds. I’m honored to be representing the Detroit Lions and will pick #6 and #18 for them.

So far, we’ve seen five picks emerge from the board:

No. 1: Carolina PanthersBryce Young, QB, Alabama
Number 2: Houston TxCJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Number 3: Arizona CardinalsGalen Carter, DT, Georgia
No. 4: Indianapolis ColtsAnthony Richardson, QB, Florida
no 5: Seattle SeahawksWill Anderson, Edge, Alabama

And that brings us to the Lions in pick #6 overall.

As we showed in our last poll, Lions can take a few different approaches with a choice, and the five options we asked readers to vote on include:

QB Will Leaves, Kentucky
OL Peter Skoronski, NW
EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

As usual, I made my choice before voting, so as not to be affected by the results of the poll, and as it turned out, my choice did not align with readers’ opinion that Wilson should be chosen. Instead, I went with…

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Lions general manager Brad Holmes has found success in the… NFL Draft By finding players who not only match the coaching staff’s stylistic preferences but also possess the perfect blend of personality and mentality.

There is no better example of this in this draft class than Witherspoon and Coach Dan Campbell / Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Witherspoon checks in at just under 6-foot-0, 181 pounds but plays much larger than his size and has the frame to hold up in the NFL — which lines up with Glenn who was a three-time All-Pro at 5-foot-9, 183 pounds.

One of the best prospects in this draft class, Witherspoon possesses a rare combination of several elite traits that make him a next-level CB1 prospect. His confidence level is off the charts, his instincts and tackling skills are among the best I’ve seen at full-back, and he’s a tone-setter in defense with his style of play and demeanor.

A very experienced cornerback, Witherspoon has 2,334 points on defense and last season was among the best players in college football.

According to the PFF, Witherspoon finished the 2022 season with a coverage score of 92.5 (highest among cornerbacks), allowing only 22 completions on 63 passes, a paltry 34.9% completion rate, and a passer rating of 25.3 for quarterbacks. . He did not allow a touchdown and had three interceptions along with 14 pass breakups, demonstrating his outstanding football skills. No corner has played more in this draft class in men’s coverage than Witherspoon has this season, however: “In 107 press coverage snaps this past season, the rookie allowed a total of One yard.”

One. yard.

Reporting skills are a requirement in Glenn’s chart and Witherspoon’s volatile skill set is tailor made. While Witherspoon probably doesn’t have a rush under 4.4 like a few other cornerbacks in this draft class, he still has plenty of speed and can live in the hip pocket of receivers. His ability to smoothly open his hips, stay in phase, and hold receivers vertically demonstrated his ability to reverse all types of receivers. His technique is solid, and while he can be a bit useful at times (six penalties in 2022), his natural instincts are to play through the receiver’s hands, breaking up double-digit passes. When the ball is in the air, his eyes are drawn to the soccer ball and his competitiveness puts him in a position to win the ball 50/50 consistently.

But Witherspoon is more than just a journalist’s corner. His off the ball skills are formidable, giving him the range to cover both the high and low areas of the pitch. His ability to get into an area, sniff out play design, and then flick and lock onto the ball is some of his best attributes. Witherspoon can also move around the field in order to align in coverage. At Illinois, he had an 85/15% split between playing the outfield and in the slot.

Combined with his extra covering attributes, Witherspoon’s ability to contribute as a run defender will certainly make Lions coaches drool. With a feisty style of play characterized by controlled aggression, Witherspoon is a devastating striker whose instincts show in every match:

While Witherspoon’s explosive theatrics will put you on the edge of your seat, his physical style of backing up the run are beautiful to watch. His ability to see the play unfold, stay clean of blocks, read and drive at the ball carrier routinely results in plays like this:

The Lions have invested heavily in upgrading their minor this offseason, and while Cameron Sutton and C.J. Gardner Johnson look destined to start the roles on the outside and in the slot respectively, the opposite outside cornerback will be a wide open contest. Returning starters Jeff Okuda and Jerry Jacobs will have a battle with additional free agent Emmanuel Mosley (who’s coming off an ACL injury), but there’s no clear starting linebacker for the role. If the Lions acquire Witherspoon, the level of competition will rise even more.

Even if Witherspoon doesn’t win a starting role, he has experience playing in kick coverage units in college and could find a starting role there as he continues to fight for play on defense.

Plus, the Lions have a sneaky, long-term need for the job. Gardner-Johnson, Okudah and Moseley are in the final year of their contracts, and Jacobs is set to become a restricted free agent, which means it’s possible none of them will return to the Lions in 2024, so adding talent like Witherspoon would give the Lions security a position.

It’s time to score for the selection.

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