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NFL Draft 2023: What to know about Seahawks' two first-round picks

Learn more about Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the two newest members of the Seahawks.

SEATTLE — In typical Pete Carroll fashion, the Seahawks deviated from what many experts predicted the team would do with its No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Many believed Seattle would take a defensive lineman or a quarterback at No. 5, but Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon ultimately ended up being the choice.

The Seahawks then brought in one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects with the No. 20 overall pick in Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

So what should Seahawks fans know about the two newest members of the organization?

Devon Witherspoon

Carroll and the Seahawks found two strong cornerbacks in last year's draft with Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen, and decided to take a chance on another with the fifth pick.

Witherspoon, who didn't play football until his junior year of high school, was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2022, given annually to college football's best defensive back.

A near-consensus first-team All-American, Witherspoon had 40 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, three interceptions, and 14 pass breakups in his final college season.

Witherspoon was targeted 63 times in coverage in 2022, but allowed just 22 catches for 206 yards, per Pro Football Focus. Witherspoon also didn't surrender a single touchdown in coverage, and the passer rating for quarterbacks throwing at him was worse (25.0) than simply spiking the ball into the ground on every play.

Although he is a somewhat smaller cornerback by today's standards, you wouldn't know it from watching his highlights.

Witherspoon likely will compete with Michael Jackson to start on the opposite side of Woolen in the secondary next season, with Bryant seeming to solidify himself as a nickel cornerback.

Carroll, who himself was a defensive back in his playing days and previously coached the position, compared Witherspoon to former Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu during a draft night press conference. Carroll coached Polamalu during his college days at USC.

Witherspoon initially had dreams of playing basketball, and as mentioned above, didn't take up football until his junior year of high school.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

More of a household name than Witherspoon in college, Smith-Njigba broke out during the Rose Bowl against Utah on Jan. 1, 2022. 

Smith-Njigba had 15 catches for 347 receiving yards against the Utes, setting a bowl-game and school record in a victory for the Buckeyes.

A hamstring injury cut his final college season short, but Smith-Njigba led Ohio State in receiving yards in 2021 despite having a pair of teammates (Garret Wilson and Chris Olave) at the same position who were first-round draft picks themselves.

Smith-Njigba comes from an athletic family, as his older brother Canaan currently plays outfield for MLB's Pittsburgh Pirates.

According to Dave Campbell's Texas Football, Smith-Njigba had the third-most receiving yards of any high school player in the illustrious history of the state.

Carroll said Thursday night that he sees Smith-Njigba playing as a slot receiver to begin his career, with Seahawks stars DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett flanking him on the outside.

"He's a guy who can play inside in the slot right now," Carroll said. "He's got those kinds of skills, and he's shown us everything that we need to see. We'll still use the flexibility because we love Tyler in there as well, and DK gets inside—we do move our guys—but he really has a chance to be a big factor right there.

"That's what we were in pursuit of in the draft. That's why we were so excited to have gotten him. We thought he was the best guy in this draft to fill that role. That's why we're so pleased about where we are right now going into tomorrow, we nailed it."

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