Illinois football is set to have at least four players selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
This would be the first time in a decade that the Illini have sent that many players into the NFL. The 2012 draft is the last time Illinois had someone selected in the first round. The 2011 draft is the last time an Illinois player went inside the top 20.
You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time the Illini sent someone to the NFL Draft and had them selected inside the top 10. Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went No. 2 and No. 3 in the 1996 draft, respectively.
In the 2023 NFL Draft, Illinois fans will be able to reset all of those draft clocks. Not only will we have someone selected in the first round, but we will likely have someone go in the first 10 picks.
Devon Witherspoon is catching the eye of a former head coach for the 2023 NFL Draft
This past season was special for the Illini. We managed to get to eight wins for the first time since the 2007 campaign. A large part of this success with our tenacious defense led by cornerback, Devon Witherspoon.
Witherspoon entered the NFL Draft process after the season and quickly shot up the draft boards of many teams, scouts, and mock draft experts. Even one former NFL head coach has taken a liking to what Witherspoon has to offer.
In a recent interview with the sports blog OLBG, former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith raved about Witherspoon and what he brings to the table.
“There’s also a corner I like. He has a good mental makeup, he has good range and could be the first corner off the board. That’s Devin Witherspoon from Illinois. He’s really good in off-coverage, which says a lot because you need great hips and flexibility against the modern-day wide outs. I think he is the full package at the cornerback position.”
I would like to second that full package comment. Witherspoon continued to lock down opposing wide receivers in every game. He would finish the 2022 season with 41 tackles, 14 pass deflections, three interceptions, and 2.5 tackles for loss.
With the NFL becoming more and more pass-heavy, having good cornerback depth is important. Witherspoon is a huge asset to all 32 teams. That is why he is going in the top 10 and could even sneak into the top five by the end of Thursday night.