Not since 2006 has Northwestern University had a player drafted into the NFL, and the last time the Wildcats had a player drafted in the first round was in 2005 when the San Diego Chargers selected defensive end Luis Castillo. As Northwestern prepares for the 2009 season, the Wildcats have one of the premier pass rushers in the nation with defensive end Corey Wootton, just like they had with Castillo in 2004.
Wootton’s breakout junior campaign, where he recorded 42 tackles, 16 for a loss and 10 sacks, has caused quite a stir among NFL scouts, and Scout.com has confirmed that 22 teams have traveled to Evanston, Ill., over the last two weeks, including the Green Bay Packers.
Most of the teams sent area scouts to Northwestern to watch practice and analyze game film, but eight of the teams were represented by football operations personnel; the 49ers (Trent Baalke, Director of Player Personnel), Bills (Doug Majeski, Director of College Scouting), Bears (General Manager Jerry Angelo), Chargers (John Spanos, Director of College Scouting and Jimmy Ray, Director of Player Personnel), Eagles (Ryan Grigson, Director of College Scouting), Falcons (David Caldwell, Director of College Scouting), Patriots (Jason Licht, Director of Pro Personnel) and Vikings (Scott Studwell, Director of College Scouting).
At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Wootton is an explosive, game-changing pass rusher who possesses a quick first step and a long wingspan that he uses to his advantage. He’s still developing his technique, but he has a solid repertoire of moves and tremendous athleticism. He has the awareness and instincts to diagnose the action and locates the ball quickly. But he has to fight off double teams more consistently and be more effective defending the run. He keeps his feet moving in traffic and has excellent lateral mobility. He displays great toughness and is a leader on defense.Wootton is the fourth-rated DE (27th overall) in Scout.com’s 2010 NFL Draft Rankings, and if it weren’t for him tearing his right ACL in the Alamo Bowl, it’s possible that he would have left school a year early and declared for the 2009 draft. Incredibly, eight months after surgery, Wootton is back on the practice field 100-percent healthy and is ready to solidify his status as a first round pick next April.
The Packers have drafted 15 players from Northwestern. Perhaps the best Northwestern player in team history was Hank Bruder, an offensive lineman who played for Green Bay from 1931 through 1939. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1972.
The Packers haven't drafted anyone from Northwestern since defensive end James Anderson in the 14th round in 1973. To put that in perspective, they've drafted players from Northwest Missouri State (Dave Tollefson, 2006) and Northwestern State (Craig Nall, 2001).
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: email@example.com.