When Shilique Calhoun came back for his senior season in East Lansing, the question was worth asking.

Would he have been a first-rounder had he left?

We’ll never know that. We do know that ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. had him slotted as his No. 20 player on his big board. A year later, Kiper again claimed that the Michigan State defensive end has the potential to be a first-round pick.

“I know some see a second-rounder, but I love Calhoun’s well-rounded game, and think a team who wants immediate help looks at him in Round 1,” Kiper wrote in his pass-rusher preview.

Kiper’s right.

Calhoun seems to have drifted into the second-round among the mock draft mafia. CBS had the first-team All-B1G selection as the No. 8 defensive end and as a second-round pick. Todd McShay doesn’t have Calhoun as a first-round pick. Actually, Kiper didn’t even have Calhoun as a first-round pick in his first mock draft, either.

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So has there been a change of heart? If anything, Calhoun’s stock probably should’ve dropped in the last month considering that he was sidelined for the Senior Bowl while other pass-rushing specialists got chances to shine.

Well, Von Miller happened.

Nobody is saying that Calhoun and Miller are the same player. But as Kiper pointed out, the Super Bowl was fantastic for pass-rushing prospects. There wasn’t supposed to be a formula to slow down Cam Newton. As it turned out, elite pass-rushers can fuel championship efforts.

Hence, pass-rushers could be in even higher demand early in the draft.

A lot can happen for Calhoun to solidify his first-round worth. He does play a position in which players’ draft stocks have been known to skyrocket, even if they’re fifth-year seniors. It’s a bit odd to think that three straight years of first-team All-B1G honors haven’t proven Calhoun’s ability as a pass-rusher.

In a draft in which freakish pass-rushers like Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner might be gone in the first 10 picks, Calhoun could become a safe-bet, high upside prospect for a playoff team at the end of the first round. Twenty-seven sacks, 44 tackles for loss and three straight years of leading a solid Michigan State defense says a lot.

Few pass-rushers in the draft have Calhoun’s résume, and given Michigan State’s recent track record for churning out quality pros, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kiper’s words prove to be true.