LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It's always a gamble taking a player with a medical red flag, but Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton certainly possesses the traits the Chicago Bears are looking for in an outside rusher.
At 6 foot 6, 270 pounds, Wootton has enough size and speed to perhaps factor in the rotation at defensive end, if his health continues to improve -- he tore right ACL, MCL, and meniscus in the 2008 Alamo Bowl. Even playing at less than full strength, Wootton turned in a productive final season for the Wildcats, recording four sacks and six tackles for a loss. Compare those numbers to Wootton's 2008 campaign -- 10 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss -- and it's clear the fourth-round selection has potential.
"He's a left end, who has played right end," Bears college scouting director Greg Gabriel said. "We don't think he's back 100 percent yet. We think by training camp he will be."
"I feel like I'm 90 to 95 percent, somewhere around there," Wootton said. "This is a great fit for me. It's a 4-3 team with a great defensive line coach."
With Julius Peppers and Mark Anderson expected to start, Wootton joins a group of ends that includes veteran Israel Idonije, and perhaps second-year players Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton. It will be interesting to see what the Bears do with Gilbert and Melton, since both may be asked to play inside. Gilbert was an under tackle in his rookie year, while Melton, who hasn't exactly impressed this offseason, spent the year on injured reserve.
In the end, Wootton was a "value" pick expected by many to go much higher before the ACL injury. Given the Bears' need at end, plus the overall premium they place on the defensive line position in general, this was a smart route to go.