The cornerback position may be the deepest of any group in the 2023 NFL Draft. Five or six cornerbacks could earn top-32 status. The contenders to become the first corner drafted include Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon, and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., to name a few. All three prospects have a legit shout to earn top-15 status, with the likes of Deonte Banks, Cam Smith, and Kelee Ringo not trailing far behind.
BetOnline recently updated their positional odds for the 2023 NFL Draft. We’ve analyzed the field. The top five are as follows:
CHRISTIAN GONZALEZ (-115)
DEVON WITHERSPOON (-115)
JOEY PORTER JR. (+1200)
BRIAN BRANCH (+2000) (Yes, he’s a safety)
KELEE RINGO (+5000)
THE FAVORITE & MY PICK: DEVON WITHERSPOON
Witherspoon’s odds have experienced quite the climb up the ranks and I believe that’s an appropriate assertion. Witherspoon is an extremely physical and aggressive cornerback that’s a clean evaluation and is the most pro-ready cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Witherspoon’s ball production highlights his ability to compete at the catch point. Witherspoon recorded a career-high 14 pass breakups in 2022, and departed the Fighting Illini program with 25 career passes defended and five interceptions. Witherspoon routinely gets his hands on the football.
Illinois mixed their coverage concepts and Witherspoon is experienced in both man and zone. Witherspoon possesses the athletic capabilities to shadow opposing receivers in man coverage. When in zone, Witherspoon keeps his eyes in the backfield and drives forward when afforded opportunities. Witherspoon is an excellent tackler that’s eager to transition into a tacking role when fitting the run from zone.
Witherspoon possesses league-wide schematic appeal. Witherspoon also has inside-outside versatility. There are some size questions present, which could limit Witherspoon to the nickel on occasion, but he’s physical enough to thrive on the boundary.
THE CO-FAVORITE: CHRISTIAN GONZALEZ
Gonzalez had been the favorite throughout the pre-draft process, but Witherspoon has recently evened the odds. Gonzalez has the length necessary (32-inch arms) to combat prototypical X-type boundary receivers. Gonzalez pairs length with outstanding athleticism and overall size (6-foot-1, 197 pounds).
Gonzalez is a man-cover corner through and through. Gonzalez utilizes length and a well-timed punch to stun receivers at the line of scrimmage. Gonzalez flashes the foot quickness necessary to match route combinations and stay within his opponent’s hip pocket throughout routes. Gonzalez’s oily hips allow him to flawlessly change direction and carry routes vertically with 4.38 (NFL Scouting Combine, verified) long speed.
Franchises that covet size and length at the position could prefer Gonzalez over Witherspoon.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: JOEY PORTER JR.
I’m surprised to witness Joey Porter Jr. trailing Gonzalez and Witherspoon by such a large margin. When I say Porter possesses rare measurables, I do mean rare. Porter’s 34-inch arms and 80.875-inch wingspan are ranked as 99th percentile measurables when compared to all-time cornerbacks. You can’t teach length and defensive coordinators will see an intriguing moldable piece of clay.
Porter experiences the occasional technical lapse on film, but his surreal length and physicality often serve as an equalizer. Porter utilizes rare length to suffocate receivers at the line of scrimmage. Porter has improved his footwork and patience over time and flashed a more complete product throughout 2022.
Porter possesses the highest ceiling of any cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft.
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