San Francisco 49ers rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has a big challenge ahead of him. On Sunday, his task will be to stop Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, whose 1,084 yards receiving this season ranks third in the NFL behind just Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. Although, Jones added to his total on Thursday night, which allowed him to temporarily surpass Hopkins with the extra game.

On Friday morning, 49ers general manager John Lynch joined KNBR and briefly discussed the third-round selection in April's draft.

"Going against a DeAndre Hopkins, it's a great challenge," Lynch said on the "Murph & Mac" show. "He seems excited for it, and hopefully, he feels that same way after Sunday."

What made Witherspoon such an exciting selection for the 49ers in the draft? Lynch went on to share the attributes that made the young cornerback such an attractive prospect.

"It's rare that you can find a 6-foot-3 cornerback that you think has really good -- usually, you're giving (up) something if you say, 'Ok, that's the prototype. We want that length,'" Lynch said. "But you're going to give something in the quickness getting in and out of breaks because those guys just typically don't possess both those qualities. You have one or the other. But when you get a guy who has that, you say, 'Wow, this could be something special.'

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"Now, there were some other things in terms of just like football awareness. He was late to football and then the physicality that we saw snapshots of at Colorado, but we didn't see on a consistent basis. But to watch him improve on that aspect of the game, his football knowledge, to start to have a sense and an awareness of, 'Ok, they're trips away, and this guy's in a wide split. I'm probably going to get a slant.' He's starting to figure out things like that.

"The most exciting thing for me to watch about Ahkello Witherspoon? The way he goes to work each and every day. Kyle (Shanahan) calls it 'deliberate practice.' He's not just out there killing time. He's out there trying to get better, and it matters to this kid.

"I think when you have talent, and you mix that with that mindset where you're out there deliberately practicing every day to be the best player you can be, I think there's going to be improvement. And that's what we've seen from him, and we just want to continue to see that, continue to go in that direction."

You can listen to the entire interview with Lynch below.


Through his final two years with Colorado, Witherspoon had a total of 59 tackles, 25 passes defensed and three interceptions. He has appeared in eight games this season and started the past five, replacing Rashard Robinson, who the 49ers traded on October 31 following Witherspoon's first career start.

Witherspoon has been targeted 23 times during his five starts with the 49ers and allowed 12 receptions for 204 yards and three touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. However, he has no missed tackles against the pass and just one against the run.