Five SEC underclassmen who should stay in school another year

On Tuesday, I looked at five SEC underclassmen who should declare for the NFL draft. But it’s not the same for everybody. There are others who would benefit from another year in college.

Injury is always a risk, but these five players would be smart to return to school.

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss: Is there a real threat to Kelly leaving school early? Probably not. The Ole Miss quarterback has been pretty adamant about returning, but he has at least piqued the interest of NFL scouts with a strong junior season. Plus, he’s the nephew of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. With all that said, though, Chad would be smart to return to school. He doesn’t have the prototypical size, like a Paxton Lynch or Jared Goff, and he really has played only one season at the FBS level. That and he’s already being talked up as a dark horse Heisman contender for 2016.

De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State: From a potential standpoint, Wilson might get drafted in one of the first three rounds. And who could blame him if he decided to leave? But he could go from a third-round pick to a first-round pick and earn himself quite a bit more money if he returns for his senior year. Obviously, he won’t be catching passes from Dak Prescott next season, but backup Nick Fitzgerald has proven more than capable when he has been on the field. And Wilson has the size and athleticism to where it doesn’t matter who’s throwing him the ball. He just needs another year to refine his skills.

O.J. Howard, Alabama: In three seasons at Alabama, Howard has never had more than 350 yards receiving and he has caught a total of two touchdowns. Yet, there are some projecting him as a third- or fourth-round pick in April’s draft. That’s because he looks the part. NFL teams are intrigued by his combination of size and athleticism. So why not leave early? My argument is that he’s not going to hurt his stock by coming back. If anything, he’s only going to get stronger and more polished as a receiver. And what if he finally does have that breakout season that Alabama fans have been waiting for? He could go from a mid-round pick to a potential first-round pick.

Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M: In the season opener, Hall looked like a first-round pick. He had four sacks and two forced fumbles, helping lead the Aggies to a win over Arizona State. But he was inconsistent at times after that. One week he’d have two tackles for loss and then he’d go two weeks without recording one. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Hall has prototypical size for a pass-rusher in the NFL. But some scouts say he still needs to get stronger. If he can do that and become more consistent, he would significantly improve his stock.

Carl Lawson, Auburn: Lawson is a first-round talent. That has been evident since he first stepped on campus at Auburn. The problem is he’s injury-prone. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and he missed six more games this fall due to a hip injury. When he’s on the field, he’s as dominant a pass rusher as there is in the SEC, but NFL scouts want to see him play a full season before he leaves Auburn. If somebody will take him in the first couple of rounds despite the injuries, then by all means declare. But if not, it makes more sense to return to school and solidify your status as a first-round pick.