Northwestern's Wootton on draft radar

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern sensed Corey Wootton's potential as soon as the mammoth defensive end arrived on campus in 2005. At 6-foot-7, Wootton was a unique physical specimen. He has since added weight and checks in at 270 pounds.

Wootton had a breakout junior season this fall, earning All-Big Ten honors, and NFL scouts are starting to take notice. He recorded nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries.

The Chicago Tribune's Shannon Ryan writes today that Wootton, a New Jersey native who had future Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan as a neighbor, could enter the NFL draft a year early.

"Wootton said he would not consider his future until after Northwestern's bowl, but he didn't sound certain that his weekend wardrobe would be purple next year. 'I try not to think about that,' he said. 'I'm not exactly sure. We'll see when the time comes. I have a year of eligibility, so after this season, we'll see how it falls into place.'"

Several Northwestern players I spoke with last week didn't anticipate Wootton forgoing his senior season, but a strong performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl next week could change things. Though Wootton might not be a household name among Big Ten fans, NFL scouts are definitely aware of his potential.

With unique size and speed off the edge, Wootton projects well at the next level. He's a guy who will improve his stock with another season in Mike Hankwitz's scheme, but he also might be ready now.

I think he'll remain at Northwestern for 2009, especially since the Wildcats should be even better on the defensive side. But I wouldn't be shocked if he makes the jump early.