This continues my series of potential first-round draft targets for the Falcons. If you missed any of the previous editions to this series, follow the links below.
PFF wasn’t lying when they said the Falcons biggest need this offseason is everything. They need talent at every position, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have said on several occasions that the pass rush, which has been anemic for over a decade, will be the focal point of the offseason, but that doesn’t mean they are going to spend all of their resources on defensive linemen.
If the cornerback room doesn’t improve, it wouldn’t matter how talented the Falcons are up front. The best quarterbacks will get the ball out quickly and shred Atlanta’s defense. Outside of A.J. Terrell the Falcons have no future at the position. They need to realistically add three high quality guys to the room this offseason, and Witherspoon would be a starting point with their first-round draft pick.
Our own Jake Gordon recently had the Falcons selecting Witherspoon 8th overall in his latest mock draft. He’s high on the Illinois corner.
My big boards haven’t come out yet, but they’re starting up soon. Devon Witherspoon is my clear cut CB1 for multiple reasons. A lot of Falcons fans don’t like the idea of a cornerback with the 8th pick, but if you look at guys like Pat Surtain II and Sauce Gardner both making All Pro teams, how could you not want to potentially pair someone like that with AJ Terrell?
Witherspoon has some of the best tape for any position in this draft. He’s a physical, sticky corner that is violent at the line of scrimmage and has very impressive ball skills. He’s a good tackler that can play special teams — something the Falcons always covet. The Falcons have a lot of money to spend in free agency, so if they properly add some pieces to their pass rush and run defense, Witherspoon can be the final piece of a truly good defense — something Atlanta hasn’t had in forever.
Witherspoon finished the 2022 campaign as PFF’s highest rated corner. Some might question his size, standing at 6’0″ and 180 pounds, but he plays much bigger than that. Witherspoon is ultra-aggressive at the line of scrimmage and a sure tackler in space. His defensive backs coach at Illinois was also very impressed with his football IQ.
“He’s a student of the game,” said Illinois defensive backs coach Aaron Henry, via 247 Sports. “I tell those guys in my room all the time, ‘I don’t teach defense. I teach offense.’ He understands what route combinations are occurring. He understands wide receiver splits. The young man is brilliantly intelligent. He’s very, very, very smart. He can tell you what formations, what routes they like and when they like to run them. He’s that intelligent.
“He’s probably one of the smarter guys I’ve had back there, especially at the corner position. He’s so wise. He understands the game. Obviously, with a lot of experience playing here, he has a great feel for it. Being in this conference, he has a natural feel for it. He expects to make plays. He expects to have good games because that’s the way he practices.”
There’s not much to complain about. Ideally, Witherspoon would be a little heavier, but that’s something that can be fixed. If the Falcons selected him in the first-round, he would slot in perfectly across from A.J. Terrell and likely be a pillar of the defense for years to come. Witherspoon could easily be the best player available when the Falcons are on the clock, and I would be thrilled to add him to the cornerback room.
Photographer: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire
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