Andrew Luck's decision to stay at Stanford for his fourth year (he'll be a red-shirt junior) was shocking to some. In a previous article, I discussed this as a very real possibility thanks to his father's influence and his desire to finish college.
While these 10 prospects likely don't have the same agenda about staying in school as Luck, these 10 prospects would benefit their skills and draft stock by staying for their senior year in college.
Not a household name to some, but Jared Crick was outstanding last year next to Ndamukong Suh, who didn't face nearly as many double teams as he would have without Crick. He struggled a bit finding his identity as a defensive tackle, likely because of the loss of Suh.
Baker Steinkuhler and Terrence Moore return next to him at defensive tackle next season, which can really help Crick's development as a complete defensive tackle. He may consider declaring with a lackluster group of DT's, but he could be a top-15 pick next year if he continues to develop.
Look no further than the Sugar Bowl for Joe Adams. He was one of the most productive talents for Arkansas this season and became Mallett's go-to guy once Greg Childs went down with an injury.
However, his inconsistent hands both during the year and in the bowl game will be a concern for scouts looking at receivers. He can become a more well-rounded receiver with another year playing alongside Childs.
While Mallett is likely to bolt for the NFL, Tyler Wilson doesn't look bad at all at QB for next year.
There are lots of issues with the Penn State program right now, from Tom Bradley likely leaving the defense for the Pittsburgh or UConn head coaching job, to Matt McGloin's five-interception bowl game, to Robert Bolden being denied his request to leave the program.
However, Derek Moye has been a consistent bright spot, and as one of the better recruits in recent years, Penn State has put an emphasis on getting him the ball. I think another year with McGloin at quarterback or just an overall development of that offense could push Moye into the first round next year.
The hero of the Rose Bowl for the winning TCU Horned Frogs was their First Team All-American and defensive leader in Tank Carder. He is a very instinctive linebacker who can play in a 3-4 defense in the NFL.
But as long as Gary Patterson is around, this offense and defense will continue to be very productive. And with Carder being a returning productive linebacker, he can improve in his drops as a pass coverage guy, and become a stronger athlete while still moving well.
He could be a mid to high first-round draft pick in 2012.
The best receiver for Miami this year may have been their least athletically gifted in Leonard Hankerson— he's a first- or second-round type of athlete and a senior. The second-best receiver on the team was LaRon Byrd, a junior, who is more of a complete receiver and consistent, but doesn't stand out as a number one receiver in the pros.
The next two juniors were expected to build off of promising 2009 seasons, but didn't. Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson are very athletically gifted, with Benjamin being a playmaker with his speed and Johnson a physical body that can dominate.
However, neither played well or consistently enough to put their stock as high as they could have, and they could improve with Al Golden at the helm and Stephen Morris at quarterback next year.
Another Miami (FL) name, Spence is undersized for an inside linebacker in most schemes, but will likely play there in a Cover 2 defense in the NFL. If he declared this year, he'd be a fringe top-four-rounds guy because of question marks about his Cover 2 fit or a switch to strong safety.
However, Al Golden has made average athletes like Alex Joseph and Elisha Joseph into legit NFL prospects, and his overall defense at Temple may have as many as six guys draft in this year's draft. If he can do that at Temple, he can really boost Spence's stock for another year.
Hill is the prototypical safety based on size, speed and strength. However, Hill has been extremely inconsistent this year. He lacks the instincts on the receiver, with the ball in the air, and in the run game.
Another year at Florida means one with Will Muschamp, who has put numerous defensive backs in the NFL in his time at Texas, and runs a defense that puts pressure on the quarterback and allows defensive backs good opportunities to succeed.
Jim Tressell told the media that he would not have let his players play in the eventually won Sugar Bowl if they weren't going to stay in school for next year. And while that sounds great, until January 16th, it means next to nothing.
Terrelle Pryor has gotten the most attention as a possible declarer, but he needs A LOT of work as a dropback passer if he hopes to make the NFL at the position. DeVier Posey was the first to say that he planned on staying, and after another year for his athletic ability to develop, he could be a first-rounder. Mike Adams at offensive tackle and Daniel Herron could use another year, and both could be mid- to high-round picks next year as well.
It may seem odd that a talented quarterback should stay in school like Andrew Luck, but Foles should also take note of the other quarterbacks in this draft class. Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett are likely to bolt, and Blaine Gabbert already said he was gone.
Next year, outside of Luck, the number two spot is wide open. Foles is a third- to fourth-round developmental type guy now, but if he can develop his on-the-move passing ability and footwork, he could be a fringe first- or second-rounder by the middle of next season.
One of my and Optimum Scouting's personal favorites as far as quarterbacks go, Cousins has the arm strength, toughness, guts and athletic ability to make it in the NFL as a full-time starter. However, with Gabbert, Locker, Mallett, Newton and Devlin likely all in the first- to second-round area in this draft (assuming the juniors declare), there won't be much room for him.
After Luck, Cousins will be battling with Foles, Pryor, Aaron Corp (former USC backup and Richmond transfer) and Matt Barkely (USC junior) for the number two spot, and that's a battle that I think Cousins very well could win next year.