Name: Ahkello Witherspoon
Position fit: Cornerback
Stats to know: 13 passes broken up in 2016 tied him at No. 1 in the nation.
What he does best:
- Able to break up a lot of passes with his length and vertical leaping ability.
- Times his jump well to break up deep passes consistently.
- Can break up slants with his long arms that he initially lost inside on.
- Prevents completions; his 31.8 completion percentage ranked No. 5 in the country.
- Only surrendered 28 catches on 88 targets and one catch for every 17 coverage snaps.
- Stays on top of routes and cuts the receivers off from the ball.
- Stays patient in his back-pedal and lets his man declare his intentions.
- Uses his quick feet and excellent balance to mirror wide receivers coming off the line.
- Not as prone to biting on double moves as most young cornerbacks.
- Communicates very well with his teammates in the secondary pre-snap.
- Plays with a high football IQ and often knows what route combinations are coming.
- A bit slow to re-direct if he guesses wrong which way the receiver is breaking.
- Can struggle to break down and tackle shifty players in space, 8 missed tackles in 2016.
- Needs to get a little physically stronger and can get outmuscled for jump balls.
- Can struggle to stop and break back on the ball quickly on hitches and comebacks.
- Doesn’t have the quick change of direction ability to play in the slot.
Player comparison: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
While it is a bit cliche to compare big corners to Richard Sherman, the comparison is fair in this case. The two players have similar physical profiles and skill-sets, and Witherspoon would thrive in the same role as Sherman, even though it’s unfair to expect the kind of career and production.
Bottom line: Witherspoon offers elite length at the cornerback position with his 6-foot-3 frame and 33-inch arms. He uses his long arms to disrupt the receivers route and stay on top of him. Even if he is trailing the wide receiver by a step on a vertical route his height, long arms and vertical leaping ability all combine to help him disrupt passes other cornerbacks might not be able to make a play on. His length also reduces the size of passing windows and allows him to still wrap his arm around and break up slants where he has already given up inside leverage. Opposing QBs only had a lowly 50.9 QB rating when throwing into WItherspoon’s coverage in 2016. Witherspoon’s quick feet and excellent balance combined with his length make him a formidable press corner. He isn’t winning with strength/physicality yet but when that element gets added to his game he can become an even better press corner. His range and length also make him effective in off coverage. Witherspoon is an outside press corner with impressive measurables, explosive athleticism and high football IQ. Witherspoon is a starting cornerback in the NFL who will likely get pushed down in the draft a bit due to the depth of the cornerback class this year.