In case it isn’t clear already that cornerback is one of the Las Vegas Raiders' biggest needs heading into the NFL Draft, we’ve had corners win both of our first two This or That or columns. Oregon’s Christian Gonzales took home the honor in our inaugural edition and, in the second edition, Illinois’ corner Devon Witherspoon handily defeated Kentucky quarterback Will Levis with 72 percent of the vote!
Witherspoon would bring an alpha dog mentality that Las Vegas’ defensive back room is currently missing. The team has a collection of solid corners but no true “No. 1” at the position, and the Illini’s combination of instincts and ball skills could elevate him into that role early on. He ranked tied for second among FBS corners with 18 forced incompletions last season while also earning the highest PFF coverage grade with a mark of 92.5.
Below are a few comments from the community as well as some analysis about the Oregon product from a few well-respected draftniks, and be on the lookout for our next This or That column where you get to make the tough decisions for the Silver and Black!
- Mark Davis’ hair: Will levis is a no go! That guy has major decision making issues and Carr struggled with that last season. I don’t think you can fix that.
- AssassinsCreed32: I actually really like Levis, and think in the right room. He could be a really good QB, I could see him being a Stafford, or Herbert, and think he will be impressive, in the right building. Getting away from that super tough situation in Kentucky, I think his transition will be easier than Stroud for example (who I have ranked higher) cause he’s already used to people in his face right away and no separation, where other guys aren’t used to it. In the right organization (DET) he is the best QB in this class. BUT idk if that’s us, and I’d rather build the best team I can this year, and see how JM does next year (not WL but how JM performs as a coach and how the team responds) and take a stud next year. However, I absolutely don’t want AR15
- JackTatumHOF: I don’t understand why people think so highly of Levis. He was recruited by Penn State and sat on the bench pretty much the entire time there. Then went to KY which has not produced anything close to a capable NFL QB since Tim Couch who didn’t have a great career but stuck around for a little while. If it isn’t Stroud or Bryce then pick defense.
- Nate Tice, The Athletic: Witherspoon is a highly intelligent player and a tone setter at the cornerback position. He is at his best when playing in zone coverage, which allows him to use his awareness and active eyes to disrupt passing concepts and work downhill as a tackler. In man coverage, Witherspoon has the hip looseness to transition when needed. He also plays with good ball skills and an understanding of body positioning, but he lacks overwhelming speed — that deficiency will show up against faster receivers. Though he has adequate height and is a physical player, Witherspoon also has below-average weight. Overall, Witherspoon is a hard-hitting player with an advanced understanding of how to play his position. He is a strong tackler who will add to a team’s highlight reel with some of his hits. His ceiling is a bit of a question mark, because of his lack of weight and top-end athleticism, but it’s hard not to love his play style and mental polish.
- Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network: Witherspoon has an impressive nose for the football in every way. He does well to find the football in man coverage and play the hands of receivers, and he has excellent rally skills from depth to step up and find the football in run support on the perimeter. He’s developed a reputation this season as a big hitter thanks to some instinctive plays to flash and react to the football on quick-hitting plays outside—he brings excellent confidence in his tackling form through contact to generate big hits and collision ball carriers. I have been impressed with his timing as a defender to sync his challenges of the football in the air with the arrival of the ball, allowing him to rake the hands of receivers and break up passes. These instincts are impressive when you consider that he’s only been playing football since his junior year of high school, leaving room for even more upward growth in his play as he continues to immerse himself in the game.
- Lance Zierlein, NFL Media: 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.
- Cory Giddings, Bleacher Report: A smart defender, Witherspoon shows great vision and route recognition. There aren’t many times when he looks to be confused on the field. Devon performs best when he is able to sit in zone coverage and react to the quarterback, allowing him to use his anticipation to jump routes and be in position for huge hits. When covering receivers downfield, he has shown the ability to sink his hips getting in and out of breaks, but he lacks the top-end speed to run with the faster receivers in the league. Also, when playing the pass game, he has the ball skills necessary to get his head around and locate the ball, as well as having the confidence to play the ball with his back to it.