2023 NFL Draft CB Betting Picks & Odds: Bets for Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon & Joey Porter Jr.
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Devon Witherspoon.
- The cornerback market for Thursday's NFL Draft is a high-priority one, featuring players like Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon and Joey Porter Jr.
- Tanner McGrath breaks down the cornerback market for the 2023 draft and makes three bets before he big day.
- Read on for McGrath's top bets in the cornerback market for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Cornerback is a two-man race — Devon Witherspoon (Illinois) and Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) — in this year’s NFL Draft — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in this market.
I scouted the top cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft and also checked how they fared in mock drafts. There are several cornerback-needy teams across the league, including a few picking in the top 10. So, naturally, there are several ways to target CBs at the top of big boards.
Let’s investigate the state of the cornerbacks in this year’s draft and dive into two of my favorite cornerback-centered NFL draft wagers.
Author’s note: Shout out to Action Network’s own Vegas Refund for providing the mock draft data for this piece. You can get the same data on his website.
Top CB: Witherspoon or Gonzalez?
Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez are the clear top-two cornerback prospects. Both are top-10 big-board talents and are power rated almost identically.
As it stands, Witherspoon is the favorite to go first across the market, while Gonzalez is the favorite to be taken second. Many mock drafts have Witherspoon heading to Detroit at No. 6 while Gonzalez goes to Las Vegas at No. 7.
It’s tough to pick between them.
Witherspoon was the most productive man corner in college football last season. He graded out as PFF’s top coverage defender, posting one of the highest-rated PFF seasons of all time. A polished, NFL-ready prospect, Witherspoon will be an impact defender almost immediately.
However, Gonzalez is two years younger, two inches taller, 20 pounds heavier and has a longer wingspan (three inches). He’s also quicker (4.38 40-yard dash), more physical and better with his hips.
Even when Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez isn’t getting thrown at, it’s not hard to see how gifted he is in coverage. Just look at the fluidity, change of direction skills, and awareness.
His athletic profile and scheme versatility are why he’s a top-10 talent in the 2023 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/yWf59TyQOu
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 17, 2023
While Gonzalez has more raw, pedigree-based talent, his college production was wildly underwhelming. Thus, he’s more of a project than Witherspoon.
Essentially, Witherspoon has the floor and Gonzalez has the ceiling.
It seems the biggest reason Witherspoon is ahead of Gonzalez is that Witherspoon is a man-coverage defender while Gonzalez played in a zone-heavy scheme. Detroit notably runs a heavy man-coverage scheme.
Witherspoon is also a tenacious, active defender, something we know Lions head coach Dan Campbell values.
For a guy 5-11 & 181 lbs, Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon hits like a Monday morning alarm clock pic.twitter.com/bD1RluzSbQ
— Kyle Lindemann (@LuckIsMadeFF) April 17, 2023
If I had to make a bet on the top corner taken (full disclosure: I am not), I’d side with taking the plus-money price on Gonzalez.
However, this two-man dynamic creates value for the rest of the cornerback market.
Bet: Lions First Pick — Cornerback (-120 at bet365)
The Lions need help on defense. Specifically, they need help in the secondary.
Last season, Detroit was 23rd in Pass Defense DVOA and 32nd in PFF’s Coverage grades. Much of those struggles came against top options as the Lions were 26th in Pass DVOA against Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers.
And then they traded Jeff Okudah. While underwhelming, he was one of Detroit’s’ top coverage corners. I somewhat like C.J. Gardner-Johnson as a slot corner or safety, and Cameron Sutton is also a solid addition from Pittsburgh, but there’s no question the Lions are thin at corner.
This is what their depth chart currently looks like:
And would you look at that! There are two uber-talented cornerbacks with different skill sets right there for the taking. Coach Campbell literally can’t go wrong.
Our guy Vegas Refund tracked 39 well-known mock drafts, and 54% of them have the Lions taking a cornerback with their first pick.
I think that number is underselling this result. Drafting one of Witherspoon or Gonzalez makes too much sense for Detroit.
Selecting a corner makes so much sense that I saw one mock draft that had Detroit taking Joey Porter Jr. at No. 6!
Ridiculous, but it does outline my point. It also leads me to my next one …
Bet: Draft Position – Joey Porter Jr. Under 19.5 (+120 at FanDuel)
Joey Porter Jr. has his issues. He’s undisciplined and maybe a little one-dimensional (bump-and-run corner). His PFF grades are also trash.
But he has too much potential.
Porter didn’t give up a single touchdown in 2022 with 11 passes defended. He’s long and lanky, perfect for press-man coverage (which he played with Manny Diaz at Penn State), physical and great at high-pointing the ball.
Can't teach size. Joey Porter Jr. has rare length, size, and physicality for a cornerback. Gives up the inside track here on the slant but has enough recovery speed to go with those long arms to break up the pass. pic.twitter.com/GfHV3fpsUs
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 9, 2023
Porter also is the clear third-best cornerback in this class, a top-20 big board guy and the only other cornerback outside of Witherspoon/Gonzalez nearly guaranteed to go in the first round.
This draft position number opened at 16.5 but actually steamed up. I think it’s been steamed too high, and I’m looking for some buyback.
For example, 72% of Vegas Refund’s tracked mock drafts have Porter being picked in the top 20. This is a good price relative to the mock draft market, especially with the juice available at FanDuel.
Again, cornerback is a high need for many teams. Most drafts have him going to the Commanders at No. 16, and the Patriots (No. 14) could also be in play.
And here’s a funny thought: Perhaps the Lions pivot to drafting a defensive lineman with pick No. 6. Well, Detroit picks again at No. 18, and the Lions could happily address their cornerback depth problem with Porter.
Pick: Joey Porter Jr. Draft Position Under 19.5 (+120)
What is QuickSlip?
QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Lean: Over 5.5 Defensive Backs Taken in First Round (-188 at FanDuel)
This number is too juiced. I am not advocating betting on this market, because there’s no value, but writing it up allows me to give a more insightful look at the overall cornerback market.
Witherspoon, Gonzalez and Porter are all first-round picks, I’m almost positive. The next two likely to go in the first round include Maryland’s Deonte Banks and Alabama’s Brian Branch.
Banks has a draft position over/under around 20.5, and I’d bet he probably goes over that number. He’s an outside, press-man corner who probably could’ve produced more in college.
Branch is actually a safety, and he’s the top safety in the class. He’s a well-rounded, versatile nickel defender who is a first-round pick on most big boards and mock drafts.
That puts us up to five first-round DBs, if all goes according to plan. After that, several guys are projected as late first-round or early second-round picks.
Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes is the big question mark; he could be in the late first-round mix. Around 50% of Vegas Refund’s tracked mock drafts have Forbes taken between pick 21 and 28, and there’s a solid chance the Bengals take a shot.
However, Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith and DJ Turner all popped up as first-round picks in some mock drafts.
Cornerback is such an important position in the NFL, and plenty of potential stars are looking to be drafted by secondary-needy teams. Essentially, too many guys in this market can sneak into the first round, so I’m leaning toward the over.
Pick: Over 5.5 Defensive Backs in First Round (-188)
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