Commanders acquire potential shutdown CB in 2023 NFL mock draft

(Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Devon Witherspoon
(Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Devon Witherspoon /

A cornerback with shutdown potential became the Washington Commanders’ first-round pick in the latest mock draft from those at The Draft Network.

The arrival of Eric Bieniemy has been a source of great excitement over the last few days. But the Washington Commanders must also retain focus on improving specific areas of their defense ahead of the new season.

Fixing the offensive line should be the team’s top priority if the Commanders are intent on moving forward with Sam Howell as their starting quarterback. But in the NFL’s modern-day game, adding a potential shutdown cornerback at some stage during the offseason is an absolute necessity.

Washington should have a significant amount to spend during free agency providing the necessary sacrifices are made. Those in power also have eight picks during the 2023 NFL Draft, including the No. 16 overall selection after narrowly missing out on the postseason.

Finding a premier, long-term offensive lineman might be considered. but Keith Mendez of The Draft Network highlighted another option that could intrigue the Commanders in his latest mock draft.

Commanders select Devon Witherspoon in The Draft Network mock

With players such as Broderick Jones, Paris Johnson Jr., and Peter Skoronski off the board, Mendez had the Commanders taking Devon Witherspoon. This represents a potential difference-maker right out of the gate that would instantly improve Washington’s suspect secondary.

"“The Commanders have spent significant draft capital on the front seven over the past couple years and have neglected the back end. It shows. The Commanders’ secondary is clearly the weak point of this defense and needs to be upgraded. Drafting Devon Witherspoon is a step in the right direction and helps improve this secondary.”"

One thing that stands out when examining Witherspoon on tape is his mentality. No occasion is too big and his ultra-aggressive style is matched by the sort of length and speed that could ensure a smooth transition to the professional ranks.

Witherspoon’s stock soared throughout the 2022 campaign, where he emerged as one of college football’s premier shutdown cornerbacks. There is a confidence to his demeanor that’s hard not to love, which he backed up constantly during his breakout campaign.

Becoming more disciplined against elite-level NFL wide receivers would be beneficial during Witherspoon’s early transition. The former Illinois standout could also do with spending a little extra time in the weight room ahead of this steep step-up in class.

With that being said, Commanders fans shouldn’t grumble if this was the path those in power chose to go down. And for all Marty Hurney’s faults as a general manager, the man knows what a first-round pick looks like and he’ll once again be influential in the team’s decision-making process alongside Ron Rivera, Martin Mayhew, and others.

The Commanders’ needs might change depending on what transpires throughout free agency. But considering how much top-level cornerbacks cost on the free-agent or trade market, going down the draft route represents a cheaper option for sustainable, long-term success.

Make no mistake, Witherspoon is one of the best entering the league this year. And when one considers how loaded this cornerback class is at the top end, acquiring one in the first two rounds is the best way to guarantee instant improvements.

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