Gritty Defender Rated Best 2023 NFL Draft Fit for Lions’ Biggest Team Need

Devon Witherspoon

Getty Devon Witherspoon lunges for a tackle against Iowa in 2022.

The Detroit Lions are a team with plenty of different needs coming into focus as the offseason wears on, and already, it looks as if defense is going to become a major focus.

The Lions have a deep need at cornerback, which Pro Football Focus has already pointed out. With so many prospects set to get the pre-draft process going, which ones should the Lions be focusing in on the most?

That can be a complicated question, but the answer could be simple in the form of Devon Witherspoon of Illinois. The gritty cornerback has been singled out by PFF’s Ben Cooper as the best draft fit for the team’s biggest offseason needs.

As Cooper wrote while matching Witherspoon with Detroit, he has made a huge rise up the boards, and PFF now considers him a top prospect. Given the team’s need at cornerback, the fit could now be seen as seamless.

“Witherspoon has climbed his way into the CB1 position on PFF’s big board. He surrendered just 22 catches and 206 yards on 63 targets in 2022. PFF’s Trevor Sikkema has Witherspoon landing with the Lions at Pick No. 6 in his latest mock draft,” Cooper wrote in the piece.

The Lions do have a need for a young cornerback, so it’s possible a player like Witherspoon could be in play if he was indeed the top cornerback going in the draft. Detroit could also be active in free agency and find a way to lure a top option there, but that might not stop them from making a push for

Witherspoon’s rise to the top cornerback in the class could begin now, and it’s clear some folks already think he offers the Lions something special for the future.

Witherspoon a Popular Mock Pick for Lions

Already, several others have been making the connection between Witherspoon and the Lions. NFL Network sage insider Daniel Jeremiah recently sent Witherspoon to Detroit in his first mock draft, which was a big rise for the player.

Jeremiah placing Witherspoon into the top 10 at pick six was a major jump for the youngster who has not been that high in many mocks thus far. As Jeremiah wrote, Witherspoon has instincts and ball skills as well as the kind of style that would mesh well with what the Lions are trying to build.

“I fell in love with Witherspoon’s skill set after the first game I studied. He is dripping with instincts and possesses outstanding ball skills. His feisty play style would fit the culture Dan Campbell and Co. are building in Detroit,” Jeremiah wrote in the piece.

As was pointed out, the Witherspoon to Detroit connection has also been made by PFF. Trevor Sikkema sent the Illinois corner to the Lions within his latest mock, and as he wrote, fans simply need to turn on the tape to see what kind of player the defender is.

“Though Witherspoon comes in a little lighter than desired for an NFL defender at 6-foot and 180 pounds, his tape was about as good as it gets. He earned an elite 92.6 coverage grade in 2022, which ranked first in the FBS. On top of not yielding a touchdown this year, on 107 press coverage snaps, he allowed just five catches for 23 total yards,” Sikkema said in the mock.

As the process wears on, these mocks prove it will be critical for Lions fans to keep a close watch on Witherspoon specifically the rest of the offseason.

Witherspoon’s College Stats & Highlights

It’s tough to ignore how much pundits are starting to appreciate Witherspoon, given these mocks are some of the first to rocket him up the board into the top 10.

Clearly, folks believe that Witherspoon will show his stuff during the draft process and get himself into the top 10 of the draft. While at Illinois, though, Witherspoon was certainly not a slouch as a player.

In a four year career with the Illini, Witherspoon put up 157 tackles, 11.5 tackles for-loss, one sack and five interceptions. He also defended 25 passes and collected three fumble recoveries. That work led him to being named a 2022 consensus All-American.

Witherspoon seems to have the kind of toughness and grit that the Lions would crave at the position. As the highlights show, he isn’t afraid to get dirty and make tackles in the run game, which the team could love.

Witherspoon has a good set of skills, and might fit the Lions like a glove right now as they head into a critical offseason for planning.

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