Why did Seahawks’ choice at No. 5 seem to come out of nowhere?

May 10, 2023, 9:49 AM

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon...

Devon Witherspoon walks on stage after being drafted fifth overall by the Seattle Seahawks. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

In the months leading into the 2023 NFL Draft, the speculation around what the Seattle Seahawks would do with their No. 5 overall pick was focused primarily in two areas.

Two Seahawks picks will make or break their 2023 draft class

On the one hand, they could address their biggest need, which at the time was the front of their defense. That meant a lot of talk about Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson and Alabama defensive end Will Anderson, even if the latter was a bit of a pipe dream with the fifth pick.

On the other hand, it’s not all that often you get an opportunity to draft a potential franchise quarterback, so many wondered if Florida’s Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis would come to Seattle to learn under Geno Smith.

Of course, the Seahawks did the least surprising thing possible when you take into account their draft history under general manager John Schneider, which was, well, surprise everybody.

Seattle took Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the first of its two first-round picks, and while his name had shown up in some later reports before the draft as someone the Seahawks liked, the selection still caught most off-guard.

So why wasn’t Witherspoon brought up more as the Seahawks’ potential top pick? ESPN NFL Draft analyst and insider Matt Miller fielded that question Monday when he joined Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

“I don’t know. That’s a great question,” Miller initially responded. “I mean, I’ve even gone back and looked at my own stuff. You can see a moment in my reporting and ranks and mock drafts and stuff when I got that information that Seattle really liked him, and it was like a switch was flipped for me.”

Miller said that 2022 fifth-round selection Tariq Woolen turning into a shutdown corner right away as a rookie may have directed people away from the fact that Seattle still had a need in the secondary.

“It’s funny to look at the roster and be like, ‘Oh, wait, we really overlooked that need for another corner because Tariq was so good last year,'” Miller said. “And you have a Tre Brown and you have Coby Bryant (also at cornerback), but they were both fourth-round picks. So there really was a need there that I think just didn’t get reported enough because we were so caught up in the idea of ‘Will they take a quarterback of the future?’ and then so caught up in, ‘Well, they’re gonna get one of the top pass rushers. They’re gonna be there,’ and not looking at the scheme fit.”

Miller wonders if Schneider and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll used speculation that they would take a player like Carter or Wilson to their advantage in the run up to the first round.

“You know, Jalen Carter’s kind of redundant to Dre’Mont Jones,” Miller said, referring to the defensive lineman that is Seattle’s biggest addition in free agency this offseason, “and Tyree Wilson’s not a standout pass rusher. Really, I think we overthought it to some degree, and to Pete and John’s credit, they do a great job of letting the media overthink things and then they grab a guy like Witherspoon.”

That may have paid off, because if the Seahawks hadn’t taken Witherspoon at No. 5, Miller thinks it wouldn’t have been long before another team did.

“Detroit would have taken him at six, I think Atlanta would have taken him at eight. Witherspoon was going top 10 even if Seattle didn’t take him. He was going to come off the board really quickly.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Miller in the podcast below.

More from ESPN’s Matt Miller on Seattle Seahawks’ draft

ESPN insider Miller: Seahawks draft an ‘A’ for ‘smart team-building’
ESPN NFL Draft expert breaks down all 10 Seattle Seahawks picks

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