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Why the Lions should draft Devon Witherspoon

Erik Schlitt makes his case for why the Detroit Lions should draft the top cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft class.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 Chattanooga at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every draft season at Pride of Detroit, it’s tradition that the staff writers make a case for some of the top prospects in the NFL Draft and explain why the Detroit Lions should be interested in drafting them. Sometimes we write about prospects we believe in. Other times we write simply because it’s a player the Lions are likely considering selecting in the first round.

When the opportunity to write about Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon came up, it seemed only logical that I would seize the opportunity to write one more time about a prospect that I have gushed over for the last several months.

But before we dive in, if you’ve missed any of our previous profiles, be sure to check them out ahead of the draft:

“My ideal scenario for (the Detroit Lions is) Witherspoon, who I love. One of my favorite players. He is plug-and-play. I think he will fit with their culture and their grittiness that they’ve installed there in that organization.” — Daniel Jeremiah explained about him pairing Witherspoon to the Lions.

Jeremiah is not alone in his projection of Witherspoon to the Lions, several other local beat writers have jumped on that train as well, including Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, Dave Birkett of the Free Press, Kyle Meinke of MLive, Ben Raven of MLive, as well as John Niyo of the Detroit News.

Allow me to take a moment and welcome the new arrivals, because if you’ve been following along with our draft coverage all offseason, you know, this is my spot.

Let me take you back to a cold Friday night in January. The Lions were less than two weeks removed from killing the Packers' hopes for the post-season—with Kerby Joseph effectively ending Aaron Rodgers’ career in Green Bay—and my draft research was just starting to heat up. With cornerback being a glaring need at the time, I started expanding my research beyond the “name” prospects and started digging into some of the guys not getting a lot of hype.

And then I came across this...

Which led to this...

And then this ...

The more I watched, the more I liked. Witherspoon’s instincts, aggression, and confidence are rare. He is sticky in man coverage—though he will need to walk the line with his hands in the NFL—excels in man coverage, and is a stud against the run. Check, check, and check on defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s requirements list.

It wasn’t long before I was looking for tape to calm down my excitement because Witherspoon looks like an ideal character fit for the Lions/Dan Campbell’s culture of grit and an ideal player for Glenn’s scheme. That negative game film never showed up. I was sold. Witherspoon was a top-10 pick for me. Easily.

Witherspoon found himself in the very next Lions Mock Draft Roundup, and I began pairing him with the Lions in basically every mock draft I was asked to participate in. Witherspoon was the pick for Ryan Mathews and I in our Super Awesome Mock Drafts, volumes 1 and 3 (in volume 2 we changed this up for the sake of variety).

When it came time for the Pride of Detroit Community mock draft, I once again went with Witherspoon. If you’re going to read one article I wrote on Witherspoon, this is the one to click. In this piece I break down his strengths and weaknesses, how he fits with the Lions culture and scheme, and how he solidifies the corner room for the future.

I would go on to rave about Witherspoon in written mailbags, our mid-week mailbag podcasts, and podcasts I was a guest on (like Questionable Teez and Roar of the Lions). It got to the point where I was trying to talk about other guys so that I didn’t appear too focused on just him. But it didn’t work. He’s “my guy.”

So while I could spend another thousand words talking about how the Lions sent a heavy contingent to watch Witherspoon workout at his individual pro day, or that he’d love to team back up with his Illini teammate Kerby Joseph, I don’t want to waste your time by having to read something I’ve already written.

So instead, I’ll encourage you to read some of the previous posts I’ve written on Witherspoon—remember: this one has the most information—and I’ll post some more fun clips to allow you to imagine what he would look like in Honolulu Blue, along with a few other analysts evaluations.


If you made it this far down the list, congrats. I’ll leave you with one final thought: Do you believe in coincidences?

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