1. Devon Witherspoon
The slender, physical cornerback fits perfectly in Ryan Nielsen’s attacking-style defensive philosophy
Weight: 181 lbs.
None of us really know what Ryan Nielsen’s defense is going to look like. He hasn’t had to call plays on a week-to-week basis before nor set up an entire defensive scheme in the NFL. He had Dennis Allen for that in New Orleans. But we do know that Nielsen wants to do one thing in particular: Attack. In his introductory press conference, he made sure to outline how aggressive his defense will be in nature.
"“In everything we are going to do, we are going to attack. That’s in all phases of the defense. Attack at every position. We want to be going forward and attacking.” -Ryan Nielsen"
Who better to embody that philosophy than the human heat-seeking missile in Devon Witherspoon out of Illinois. His slender frame may make him seem unassertive and, dare I say, nonintimidating when walking off the bus. But make no mistake, inside Witherspoon is a torpedo ready to attack both unexpected ball carriers and hubristic receivers alike.
The part I love most about Witherspoon’s game is that even with this physical approach to the game, he is still sticky in coverage. He balances his physicality with patience which only comes with confidence in one’s ability and technique. And his technique will only get better underneath new assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray. A man who is known to be pretty sticky in coverage himself.
In their scouting report, Pro Football Network has Witherspoon’s defensive back coach Aaron Henry discuss what he loved about Witherspoon’s game:
"“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.”"
Witherspoon’s mix of aggressiveness, ability, technique, and football intelligence make him one of my perfect draft fits for the Atlanta Falcons.