Northwestern NFL Status: Defense Sticks Out

Ryan DietzContributor IOctober 8, 2009

EVANSTON, IL - SEPTEMBER 8: Sherrick McManis #24 of the Northwestern Wildcats gets ready for the hike during the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack on September 8, 2007 at Ryan Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Every year Northwestern has a couple NFL prospects, but nowhere near the handfuls that come from other Big Ten schools like Ohio State and Michigan.  Here’s a look at a group of seniors that could be playing on Sundays in the future.

Corey Wootton—Defensive End, 6’7”, 280

Wootton is the top NFL prospect on the team, due to his size and productivity last year.  He had 10 sacks last season and looked quick off the line for such a big guy.  Don’t be fooled, there is no way he is 280.  Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald said Wootton told him he was 284, but I believe Corey could project as a great end in a 3-4 scheme or even a tackle. 

He might have lost out on $15-20 million due to his knee injury in the Alamo Bowl last year.  He was a for-sure second-round pick before the injury, and while many thought coming back would make him a first-rounder this year, he has not produced.  Wootton was thinking about coming out last year before the injury.  I

f he has a huge second half and a great combine, he could still sneak in the first round because his size is very favorable and ends like him are few and far between.  Scouts Inc. and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has Wootton as the tenth-best defensive lineman and the 52nd-best eligible player.

Sherrick McManis—Cornerback, 6’1”, 190

McManis is the type of shutdown cornerback that NFL teams look for.  He has the size and speed to play at the next level and already has two interceptions in the last two games that have been big plays.

Teams rarely target McManis, and he has been able to shut down receivers like Eric Decker and Jeremy Maclin.  He is underrated, but expect a big second half of the year to catapult him up the draft charts of many. 

Not many corners have his size and long arms, which makes him comparable to Charles Tillman.  McShay had him as the 38th best corner in August, and I would expect him to be much higher now.

Brad Phillips—Safety, 6’4”, 215

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Phillips has a very outside shot at the pros, and would probably be undrafted if he makes a team.  He has durability issues, but is a tough guy and plays vicious defense.  His speed and coverage skills are suspect, but he can change a game with his playmaking ability and punishing hits. 

He had shoulder surgery in the offseason and many teams will recognize a hard-hitting safety that has body problems.  I still expect a team to take a chance on him.

Brendan Smith—Safety, 6’1”, 210

Smith is unlikely to make the pros.  He makes all the right play calls from the safety position, is elusive, and has a lot of playmaking ability.  He’s the ideal centerfielder for a defense. 

That said, his coverage abilities and speed are reasons for concern.  He has not faired well in coverage this year and often gets beat by faster receivers.  He doesn’t necessarily have NFL safety size, either.  His best shot is as an undrafted free agent.


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