Seahawks stick at No. 5 overall, select Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon

Apr 27, 2023, 5:59 PM | Updated: Apr 29, 2023, 3:58 pm

The Seattle Seahawks indeed kept the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but instead of taking Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter as many expected, they went a different direction: Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

Seattle Seahawks Draft Breakdown: A look at every 2023 NFL Draft pick

Witherspoon, a 5-foot-11, 181-pound defender, shined for the Fighting Illini last year, finishing the season as a first-team All-Big Ten member and a unanimous All-American. He picked off three passes and had 14 passes defensed.

Witherspoon is now the highest-drafted cornerback under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider and the highest-drafted player overall under those two, who came to Seattle in 2010.

Previously, Carroll and Schneider’s highest pick was offensive tackle Russell Okung at No. 6 in 2010, while the earliest pick they’d used on a cornerback was Shaquill Griffin in 2018 when he went 90th overall in the third round.

Stacy Rost of Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy identified Witherspoon earlier this month as a potential wild card for the Seahawks to take at No. 5, which you can read about here.

According to Pro Football Focus, Witherspoon allowed just a 34.9% completion percentage when targeted in 2022.

From draft expert Lance Zierlein’s profile of Witherspoon:

Witherspoon is a fun watch but requires evaluators to carefully consider his strengths and weaknesses relative to scheme. He plays with anticipation, route feel and a consistent sense of urgency to prevent catches, as displayed by his high number of pass breakups. He plays with ballhawking eyes and good balance from zone coverage and is very aggressive tackling both after the catch and in run support. There are snaps where he gets behind and stays behind due to a lack of premium speed and closing burst, so he might require help over the top or a more zone-oriented scheme to help him shine. The playmaking mentality and traits give him a solid chance to become a CB2 in the league.

With Witherspoon in the fray, the Seahawks have the makings of a long-term answer at cornerback between the pending rookie as well as Tariq Woolen, a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2022 who tied the NFL lead with six interceptions. The Seahawks also have Michael Jackson, who started every game for Seattle last year at outside corner, along with 2021 fourth-round corner Tre Brown and 2022 fourth-round corner Coby Bryant, the latter of whom established himself as Seattle’s go-to nickel corner in 2022.

The Seahawks weren’t done in the first round, though, as they also had the 20th pick in the draft, where they took Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

2023 Seattle Seahawks draft picks

• First round (5th overall): Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
• First round (20th overall): Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
• Second round (37th overall): Auburn edge Derick Hall
• Second round (52nd overall): UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet
• Fourth round (108th overall): LSU guard Anthony Bradford
• Fourth round (123rd overall): Mississippi State defensive tackle Cameron Young
• Fifth round (151st overall): Michigan edge Mike Morris
• Fifth round (15th overall): Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi
• Sixth round (198th overall): New Mexico safety Jerrick Reed II
• Seventh round (237th overall): Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh

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Seahawks stick at No. 5 overall, select Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon