The NFL’s next terrific young cornerback could be the 49ers’ Ahkello Witherspoon.
If that sounds hard to believe, or if it seems like pure hype, consider that the prediction comes from All-Pro corner Richard Sherman.
The former Seahawks star signed with the 49ers this offseason and has been watching Witherspoon on film and on the field. He loves what he sees. When the 49ers open training camp next week, Sherman believes the second-year pro, a third-round pick from Colorado who played well as a rookie, is on track to stardom.
Recently, Sherman put together a special camp for elite NFL corners and invited Witherspoon to take part. Sherman told Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback that Witherspoon has what it takes to join the likes of camp participants such as Aqib Talib, Darius Slay and Xavier Rhodes.
“I invited him because I thought he could hold his own,” Sherman told Klemko. “I think from being around him, working with him, working out with him, watching him in OTAs and minicamp, I knew he could keep up with the workflow. I knew he would look the part.
“I knew drill-wise he wouldn’t be overwhelmed. His footwork is beautiful and technical. I knew that in terms of demeanor and just being able to just walk around and not be star-struck by these guys, he’d be fine. I think he belongs with those guys and people will figure that out in a few months.”
Witherspoon, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, started nine of the 12 games he played in as a rookie for San Francisco and had two interceptions, seven passes defensed and was in on 32 tackles. Late last season, the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted the rookie after Week 12 allowed a passer rating of under 70 without giving up a touchdown. The more playing time he received, the better he played.
Now he’s heading into his second season with Sherman touting him as a future star. Witherspoon now has the confidence in what he’s learned, and his talents, to believe he and Sherman – one of the NFL’s top corners – can make a terrific tandem in 2018.
Said Witherspoon to Klemko: “I expect for us to be the best defense in the league. I like to think we’ll be able to play nine-on-nine with myself and Sherman out there taking out two receivers. It’s a matter of coming together, playing fast and making those plays when they come.”