Seahawks First-Round Pick Sends Strong Message After Surprise Move

Devon Witherspoon

Getty Devon Witherspoon walks on stage after being selected fifth overall by the Seattle Seahawks during the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft on April 27, 2023.

The Seattle Seahawks surprised not just analysts and fans when they selected cornerback Devon Witherspoon with their No. 5 overall pick, but the Illinois standout told reporters that he wasn’t expecting his name to be called that early either.

“I was confident I’d go pretty high. Didn’t know it was going to be Seattle, but glad it is,” Witherspoon said, per Fox 13‘s Aaron Levine. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have never selected a cornerback before the third around over the past 13 years, so Witherspoon’s surprise is understandable.

But the 22-year-old prospect is thrilled with how the board fell and sent a strong message to Seahawks fans. “Ready to come to work and be a Seahawk, baby,” he said. Of his Top-30 visit to Seattle, “The view out there, the facility, the guys, everything. It was just really dope,” Witherspoon said, per Fox 13‘s Curtis Crabtree.

When asked to describe his game, Witherspoon said, “Energetic, physical, dog on the field, passionate,” per Seahawks reporter John Boyle. “I’m just very confident in what I do. Passionate. And I just love so my emotions out there on the field,” he added.

ESPN‘s analyst Mel Kiper ranked Witherspoon as the eighth-best prospect in the entire draft. Kiper wrote, “Witherspoon allowed 16 receptions on 54 targets as the primary defender last season. He gave up just 3.3 yards per attempt and zero touchdowns while breaking up 14 passes and picking off three more. Impressed yet? He was extremely consistent all season. He doesn’t get handsy with receivers, so his game will translate well to the NFL. He also will tackle when needed. Witherspoon didn’t work out at the combine because of a minor injury; he ran a mid-4.4s 40-yard dash at his pro day in early April.”

Devon Witherspoon Is ‘Excited’ to Play Alongside CB Tariq Woolen

The 5-foot-11, 181-pounder will look to compete for the starting role opposite of Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen, who earned Pro Bowl honors his rookie year, and he’s pumped for the challenge. “I’m excited to be across from that guy,” Witherspoon said of Woolen, per The News Tribune‘s Gregg Bell. “He’s a ball hawk. He’s a very talented player. I’m ready to go out and be a great duo with him.”

The Athletic‘s Michael Shawn-Dugar surmised, “Witherspoon can have an immediate impact on a pass defense that was decent but not great in 2022. Seattle came into training camp last summer with Artie Burns and Sidney Jones sitting atop the depth chart at outside cornerback. By Week 1, Woolen and journeyman Michael Jackson were the starters. Witherspoon will have the chance to compete with Jackson — and 2021 fourth-round pick Tre Brown — for a starting job on the outside.”

Last season, Witherspoon recorded 32 tackles, three interceptions, 14 pass breakups, and allowed zero touchdowns in 12 games, which earned him an impressive 92.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

Seahawks Were Largely Expected to Pick Jalen Carter at No. 5

A huge reason Witherspoon’s selection at No. 5 was so unexpected because it was universally predicted that the Seahawks would select Georgia’s defensive tackle, Jalen Carter, especially after quarterback Anthony Richardson was taken by the Colts at No. 4.

There were also several rumors that the Seahawks would choose to trade down from No. 5, and they did did try. ESPN‘s Brady Henderson tweeted, “Witherspoon said the call ‘came a little late’ (presumably b/c they were discussing trades).”

While Seahawks fans digested the switch, the move to select Witherspoon earned praise from analysts across the league. USA Today‘s Doug Farrar tweeted, “Jalen Carter was my No. 1 defensive player in this class. Devon Witherspoon was 2, and there are no issues. Seahawks hit a grand slam here.”

Bally Sports‘ Brad Evan wrote, “WOW!!! Thought for sure Devon Witherspoon was going No. 6 to Detroit with Jalen Carter on the board. He’s a true island corner. Will be an instant studs. Has no weaknesses. Unreal player. Unbelievable all-around defensive game.”

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