Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon are the most highly regarded cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Both players possess a combination of athleticism, technique, and physicality that make them top prospects at the position. This is a critical and detailed breakdown of both prospects to answer the questions of Who is the Number one corner in the 2023 NFL Draft and which player is the best fit for the Raiders.
Part 1. Devon Witherspoon
Devon Witherspoon emerged as a diamond in the rough from Pensacola, Florida, catching the attention of Illinois late in the recruitment process. Despite this, he quickly acclimated and proved his worth by starting several games as a freshman. As time went by, his role on the team continued to expand.
With an exceptional performance in 2021, Witherspoon was recognized as an All-Big Ten player, solidifying his position in the NFL Draft radar. As a fourth-year junior, he became the cornerstone of his team’s defense and was a force to be reckoned with in his final season in Jacksonville. Witherspoon’s exceptional abilities as a cover corner earned him the title of one of the top players in the nation.
Tale Of The Tape
Witherspoon couldn’t participate in on-field Scouting Combine work because of a hamstring injury.
- Position: CB
- School: Illinois
- Current Year: Senior
- 5′ 11 1/2″
- 181 lbs
- Hand Size
- 8 7/8″
- Arm Length
- 31 1/4″
- 73 5/8″
- 40-Yard Dash
- Bench Press
- Broad Jump
- Vertical Jump
- 3-Cone Drill
- 20-Yard Shuttle
Witherspoon is a tenacious defender who thrives on physicality and aggression. He’s not afraid to get in his opponent’s face and challenge them on every play. His confidence is evident in the way he plays, always looking to make a big play and disrupt the opposing team’s game plan.
- His athleticism is also a major asset, allowing him to stay with even the most elusive of receivers. Witherspoon has the speed and agility to stick with his man and break up passes, and his ball skills are top-notch.
- Witherspoon’s size may be a disadvantage compared to some of his peers, but he more than makes up for it with his incredible effort and determination. He plays every snap with a relentless energy that sets the tone for his entire team.
- His physicality is particularly impressive, as he never shies away from contact and always looks to make a big hit. However, he’s also a smart player who understands the importance of technique and leverage, using his body to maximize the impact of his hits.
- Against the run, Witherspoon is a force to be reckoned with. He’s able to shed blockers quickly and get into the backfield to disrupt plays before they can even get started. He’s equally adept at making tackles in space or behind the line of scrimmage, showing off his impressive range and athleticism.
- As much as I love Witherspoon’s game, there are always areas for improvement. Chief of which for the Illinois CB is containing his aggressiveness. Across the last two seasons, Witherspoon’s been penalized 11 times, mostly from defensive pass interferences.null
- He’s developed every year since entering college, working on getting his head around before the ball entered the vicinity. However, Witherspoon can still be too physical, over-eager, and “handsy,” which he may struggle with during his first few years in the NFL against superior athletes.
- In coverage, Witherspoon can be overconfident in his play recognition and physical abilities, falling for the occasional jab-step at the line and double or even triple move downfield. And as a tackler, there were times when he overpursued angles, leading to whiffs and broken attempts.
Now, there are some aspects of Witherspoon’s scouting report that he can’t truly improve on. Although he does an excellent job staying on top of routes and not letting himself get stacked, his long speed can be questionable vs. speedy WRs. And, for better or worse, a hamstring injury held him out of the NFL Combine, meaning he didn’t get to quantify his speed with the 40-yard dash.
Does Witherspoon Make Sense For The Raiders?
Devon Witherspoon is a player with a ton of upside and potential at the next level. He has already shown that he can be a stud in college and has the physical tools to make an impact at the NFL level. His ability to play man coverage, make plays on the ball, and contribute in the run game makes him a valuable prospect for any team in need of a cornerback. With some refinement and development, Witherspoon has the potential to become a top-flight NFL corner, with the skills, mentality, and physicality to excel at the next level. He’s a player who can make a real impact on a defense, and he’s sure to be a sought-after prospect come draft day.
Part 2 Christian Gonzalez
Gonzalez was a four-star recruit when he signed with Colorado out of The Colony High School in Texas, where he starred on offense, defense and special teams. Gonzalez started all six games of the Buffaloes’ 2020 season (25 tackles, five pass breakups) and all 12 contests in 2021 (53 tackles, 5.5 for loss, five pass breakups), earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 accolades. Cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin moved from Colorado to Oregon after the season and Gonzalez followed suit, starring for the Ducks in 2022. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick after leading Oregon with four interceptions and seven pass breakups, posting 50 tackles and blocking a kick in 12 starts. Gonzalez opted out of the team’s bowl game. His father, Hector, is a former UTEP basketball player who played semiprofessionally in Columbia. Gonzalez’s older sisters are former All-American track stars Samantha (Miami) and Melissa (Texas), who is married to NFL quarterback David Blough. — by Chad Reuter
- WEIGHT: 197 (HANDS: 9 1/2 ARM: 32
- SPAN: 77 2/8
- FORTY: 4.38
- SHUTTLE: DNP
- 10 YARD: 1.54
- VERT: 41.5
- BROAD: 133
- THREE CONE: DNP
- BENCH: 14
- (C) – NFL COMBINE (P) – PRO DAY
Christian Gonzalez, is known for his quickness and agility, as well as his ability to stick with receivers in man coverage. He’s a supremely talented athlete and also a willing tackler who isn’t afraid to get physical in run support conversely he needs more work on his technique with his combination of speed and size he has a decided advantage in pass defense over most Defensive backs. Gonzalez has the potential to be a shutdown corner at the next level.
Overall, Gonzalez has the physical tools and instincts to be a solid NFL cornerback, but he will need to clean up his technique and discipline to avoid penalties and big plays by the offense. With some coaching and development, he has the potential to be a quality starter at the next level.
- Oregon utilized a heavier dose of cover-three, resulting in occasional lapses in outside man-to-man coverage. Nonetheless, there were numerous commendable instances of individual coverage by the defense.
- Gonzalez lands those one-handed stabs at the pec of receivers consistently, technique allows him to effectively control the receiver’s route and limit their options for catching the ball. He also demonstrates excellent spatial awareness, often using the sideline as an extra defender to cut off passing lanes and force turnovers. Overall, his disciplined and methodical approach to defending receivers
- For a tall Corner, His fluidity and change of direction are top-notch, allowing him to stay in phase with his assignment and limit separation.
- Gonzalez also possesses excellent ball skills, showing the ability to track the ball in the air and make plays on it at its highest point. He has good timing and instincts for when to turn his head and locate the ball, and is not afraid to get physical with receivers to disrupt their timing and positioning.
- During his time at Colorado, he possessed the prototype press-man corner measurements and was consistently tasked with guarding the opposing team’s top receiver at the line of scrimmage.
- Instincts to create more catch challenges are spotty.
- Below average anticipation to jump route breaks.
- Inconsistent finding optimal positioning to constrict catch area.
- Average feel for angles attacking the throw.
- Slow to get his head around and find the football downfield.
- Inconsistent coming to balance as open-field tackler.
- Needs to play with better awareness to run plays.
He also struggles with tackling at times, often going for the big hit instead of wrapping up his target. This can lead to missed tackles and big gains for the offense.
Despite these weaknesses, Gonzalez has shown potential as a ballhawk in coverage, with six interceptions and 12 pass breakups in his two years at Oregon. He has good instincts and a nose for the ball, which could make him a valuable asset in a zone defense.
Which Player Is The Best Option For The Raiders?
Is it Devon Witherspoon from the University of Illinois or is it Christian Gonzalez from the University of Oregon? Gonzalez has a clear advantage in terms of size and measurables. which might make him a more attractive option for teams looking for a shutdown corner. However, Witherspoon’s technique and aggression cannot be overlooked he has shown the ability to stick with receivers even in tight spaces. Ultimately, it will come down to team needs and preferences, but Gonzalez may have a slight edge due to his size and god-given measurables. As for the Raiders, they may be more inclined to go with Gonzalez if they are looking for a bigger corner to anchor their secondary. Although some might say Witherspoon is the more NFL-ready from a technical standpoint. Either way #RaiderNation which corner would you pick at number seven for the Raiders? Sound off below on Twitter!!!👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾