The five most important NFL draft decisions 

December, 15, 2009

Jake Locker announced Monday that he will return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft. As an immediate result, we had a big domino remain standing in the NFL draft versus next season's college football BCS race.

No, I'm not insinuating that Locker's Huskies are poised to make a national title run in 2010 (I do think with 17 starters back, they'll have a good shot at making a top 25 appearance), but his presence is very, very significant in the shaping of the Pac-10 championship race; since he makes U-Dub so dangerous, it impacts the potential contenders, namely the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans.

Washington also plays Nebraska next year. The Cornhuskers will lose Ndamukong Suh, but could be one of the better teams in what shapes up as a wide-open Big 12 (a few great QBs are leaving the conference). One great performance by Locker could knock any of them out of the BCS picture.

We're still a while away from making 2010 preseason top 10 lists, but here are five guys whose NFL draft decisions will be massively important when those discussions start happening:

(And for reference, here's Todd McShay's Mock Draft and Mel Kiper's most recent Big Board):