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Ranking the Big 12 players who spurned the NFL draft

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Most of the Big 12 key players decided to return for the 2009 season rather than declare for the NFL draft. Here are my rankings on the most important returning players, including Colt McCoy.

1. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford -- Late in the season, it sounded like Bradford was leaning toward NFL riches. Those sentiments only got stronger after he won the Heisman Trophy and was projected as one of the nation's top two quarterbacks in the draft. But after a disappointing loss to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game, Bradford decided to return for his junior season. His return is the biggest reason why Bob Stoops' post-Florida malaise got a lot brighter this week.

2. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy -- Even though he made his decision late in the season, his return is still huge for the Longhorns. Because McCoy is coming back, Texas has a legitimate shot at the national championship. If he had turned pro, John Chiles would be trying to keep the Longhorns' dynasty afloat. Big difference, isn't it?

3. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- His return is the biggest reason why the Cornhuskers still are considered potential North Division champs in 2009. Suh's dominating season has him pointed to a potential run at the Outland Trophy next season. And it will be fun to see how many different ways Sean Watson will use him in the Nebraska backfield in short-yardage situations.

4. Texas linebacker/defensive end Sergio Kindle -- He likely wasn't ready to declare for the draft and can learn much in another season working with Will Muschamp. But if plays to his immense potential and can stay healthy, Kindle would be a natural replacement for Brian Orakpo as Texas' dominant defender.

5. Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham - Nothing like having your major security blanket returning. Oklahoma's top clutch receiver is the most naturally gifted tight end in the country. But he still needs to work on his blocking to become a better rounded prospect. When he does that, he'll be a certifiable monster.

6. Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy -- Will provide a huge lift inside for an Oklahoma defensive front that might be the nation's best if Auston English makes an expected successful return from his knee injury.

7. Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung -- Oklahoma State has most of its key skill position players coming back but will benefit by having its top blocker returning to protect Zac Robinson's blind side. A big season for Okung could result in him developing into a potential first-round selection and the Cowboys challenging for their first South Division title.

8. Texas linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy -- Developed as Texas' leading tackler in 2008, but can boost his draft standing by playing the run better. The Longhorns' struggles against Beanie Wells in the Fiesta Bowl weren't a good sign and Muckelroy can boost his draft standing by helping to shore that liability.

9. Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams -- Look for Oklahoma's running game to tilt towards the right side with his comeback as the Sooners' lone returning starter. Bradford will sleep a little bit easier, too, knowing he has at least one experienced blocker coming back.

10. Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston -- Underrated inside defender will have his chance to emerge from outside the shadows of players like Orakpo and Roy Miller who garnered most of the publicity and most of the plays for Texas' defensive front in 2008.