Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has been drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the NFL Draft. At pick 66 he was the second Buff taken in this year’s draft behind his fellow corner Chidobe Awuzie.
Witherspoon was a key member of the third-ranked Colorado secondary last season. He heads to the NFL Draft in April as perhaps the rawest talent of a defensive back trio that also includes safety Tedric Thompson and Awuzie. Witherspoon may also have the highest ceiling of the three.
‘Spoon’ led the nation in passes defended in 2016 (a mark he shared with Thompson). He had 20 passes broken up, a forced fumble and an interception in his final season, along with 23 total tackles. He only played one season of high school football, part of the reason he remains a largely raw prospect. He spent a season at community college where he racked up 21 tackles, seven passes broken up, three interceptions and a forced fumble before heading to Colorado.
At six-foot-three, 198-pounds Witherspoon is built like an NFL corner. He is dangerously adept at reading and adjusting to opposing offenses. His speed is explosive, he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. His dynamic skill set made him an enormous threat opposite of Awuzie, forcing quarterbacks to choose between two shutdown corners.
From BSN Denver’s Sam Weaver’s scouting report:
The Good: Witherspoon’s size and long arms (33 inches) allow him to beat receivers for jump balls. He has great hands and explosive speed coupled with solid footwork. He has shown exceptional route-reading abilities and consistently makes plays on the football. Quarterbacks completed only 31.8 percent of passes against him last season. Witherspoon’s play doesn’t dim under bright lights or high pressure – his lone interception of 2016 was a dramatic game-winner in the end zone against Oregon.
The Bad: Witherspoon’s raw talent is impressive, but he still has plenty of developing left to do. He has struggled with tackling, particularly in open space against the run. He will need to hit harder to compete at the next level. Despite weighing in at 198 lbs, he could stand to add some muscle if he wants to win matchups with bigger receivers in the NFL. Over three seasons at Colorado, he only managed three interceptions. It would really elevate his game if he could turn a few more of those into turnovers.