CB4: Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State)
Emmanuel Forbes threw a wrench in my agenda when he weighed 166 pounds during the NFL Combine. I have pounded the drum for Forbes, dating all the way back to 2021, but his size forced me to go back to the tape. What did I find?
Well, I had many of the positives reinforced. Nobody plays the ball better in the air than Forbes. His absurd 14 interceptions (six pick-6s) highlight the fact, and a phenomenal 89.3 coverage grade (via PFF) cements the tape.
Even more, Forbes grades out surprisingly well as a run defender. Still, his lack of weight is apparent on several snaps, mainly when it comes to Forbes’ high missed tackle rate.
Additionally, Forbes was unable to corral bigger receivers, including a rough performance against LSU’s Kayshon Boutte. Forbes was hit with six penalties last season and allowed 14 touchdowns throughout his career.
Nonetheless, I came away from a second viewing of his tape equally as impressed as the first time. But, the lack of size was clear on some snaps, leading me to push Forbes down the board a tad. He remains a first-round grade for me, even if he is the lightest cornerback to weigh in at the NFL Combine since 2000.
NFL Draft Grade: Late Day 1
CB3: Devon Witherspoon (Illinois)
Devon Witherspoon’s tape is unlike any I’ve watched before. As stated numerous times already, most of these guys boast incredibly fun film. But nobody had my jaw on the floor as much as Witherspoon.
The smashmouth Illini superstar burst onto the scene in 2022. It was impossible to scroll through Twitter on a Saturday afternoon without a couple of Witherspoon highlights popping up. His most promising trait is the fire he plays with. Witherspoon is never thrown around, even with his meager frame.
Witherspoon is a top-tier run defender, and this trait allows for a versatile projection. He can play in the slot just as easily as the boundary. Witherspoon uses his intensity and raw strength to shed blocks and chase down ball carriers looking for big gains.
In coverage, Witherspoon can play zone and man coverage at a high clip. He displays an advanced knowledge of routes, quickly identifying where his assignment is headed and using this head start to disrupt passing lanes. As effective as Witherspoon is in zone, he is just as impactful outside, using his trademark power to manipulate receivers downfield.
In terms of production, Witherspoon saved his best campaign for senior year. In 2022, he only allowed a mind-blowing 35.5 percent of completions. Going further, Witherspoon picked off three passes and broke up 14 more. Combine these numbers with his highlight reel hit sticks, and it makes for one of the most exciting cornerback prospects in a while.
If there is something to nitpick in Witherspoon’s profile, it would be his overall frame and the fact he only posted one elite season of production in college, as a senior, no less. These issues are exactly as I said, nitpicky, but if a team is worried about Witherspoon’s play style holding up in the NFL, it’s not unwarranted.
I would take Witherspoon in the middle of round one. His tenacity, talent, and technique in coverage make his lack of ideal size less of a risk. Witherspoon should play on the outside, but his floor in the slot is so high that I consider him bust-proof (barring injury).
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-Day 1