The San Francisco 49ers spent pick No. 66 on Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, and they might have their starter opposite Rashard Robinson. The 49ers are switching to a Seahawks style defense, and a key component of that is finding corners that can play press coverage. They might have found the perfect player for it.
Witherspoon is a tall, long corner who seems perfectly suited for this defense. He stands 6’3, weighs 200 pounds, and has 33 inch arms. For comparison, Rashard Robinson is 6’1, 180+ pounds with 32 1⁄4 inch arms. However, the best overall comparison based purely on physical traits is a familiar name: Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman!
Here is a look at a spider visualization of Witherspoon’s measurables.
Having the same measurables certainly does not mean Witherspoon is turning into Sherman. He only played one year of football in high school before going to college, so he has a lot of work to do. But it’s an intriguing comparison.
And Witherspoon is a big fan of the press coverage. When asked about it during the post-selection press conference, he was excited about the opportunity. A reporter mentioned how it was an ideal situation in terms of location (Witherspoon lives in Sacramento) and defensive style.
“Yes, yes, definitely. Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense that they play, pressure man, up in your face. When I came in for a visit they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And, again, just an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home with such a savvy defense and mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”
When asked more about the defense, he talked about the press coverage.
“Yeah, I mean, I know that they play just press man, tight thirds, cover three, which basically turns into man once the receiver reaches vertical and that’s what we discussed on my visit out there and that they liked my ability to play press and be up in your face and be physical. That’s what I intend to do.”
The 49ers are likely moving Jimmie Ward to free safety. Add in the release of Tramaine Brock and the 49ers have a lot of questions at cornerback. GM John Lynch said after the pick that he thinks Witherspoon could work his way into the starting lineup this year, but acknowledged he has to earn his way. Physically, he’s got the tools. We’ll see how he builds on it.