Draft Review: Charles Woodson
A first-ballot Hall of Famer
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Charles Woodson spent three seasons at Michigan, leaving after his junior year. Why stay? In 1997 he helped Michigan win a national championship and became the first and only defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Woodson was a three-year starter for the Wolverines and a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He excelled on defense (17 career interceptions) and also dabbled on offense and special teams, catching 24 career passes with three touchdowns and averaging 8.8 yards on 44 career punt returns with another score. He measured 6-1, 200 pounds at the 1998 NFL combine and turned in a 4.39 40 with a 37-inch vertical jump. In his very first attempt at a Top 100 in 1998, Gosselin ranked Woodson as the fifth best player in the draft. The Oakland Raiders selected him with the fourth overall choice of the 1998 draft.
Here are comments on Woodson from four talent evaluators leading up to the 1998 NFL draft:
Scout I: Looks the part but doesn’t come put of breaks. Both cornerbacks in 1997 (first-rounders Shawn Springs, Bryant Westbrook) better than this guy.
Scout II: No technique but no one ever challenges him. Don’t see the backpedal and break on the ball. As a receiver he has no clue. Makes plays on his athleticism and speed. Makes big plays in big games. Shawn Springs a sounder player and more disciplined.
Defensive backs coach: Not as explosive as you think he is. But on the move he’s great at getting the ball. Big-time playmaker. Such a great athlete. But he’s not Deion. Ballhawk.
Defensive backs coach II: Good catchup speed and feel for the game. Gambles some and gets in bad positions. But he does understand positioning. Better when the ball is in the air than Springs or Westbrook. Springs has a better burst and Westbrook was more sound in his technique. Given a choice of the three, I’d go Springs, Woodson, Westbrook.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Woodson played 18 seasons — two stints in Oakland sandwiching a seven-year stay in Green Bay. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Raiders in 1998 and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Packers in 2009. Woodson also won his only Super Bowl with Green Bay in 2010. He went to nine Pro Bowls and was a four-time first-team all-pro. He also was voted to the 2000 NFL all-decade team. Woodson led the NFL in interceptions in both 2009 (9) and 2011 (7) and is tied for fifth all-time with 65. He intercepted 54 of those passes as a cornerback and 11 playing safety in his final four seasons. He started 251 career games, tied for 13th all-time and second among cornerbacks behind Hall of Famer Darrell Green (254). Woodson checked every box as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin resurrected his scouting reports here for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed the top draft prospects coming out of college.