Yes, the NFL draft experts are already buzzing about Malik McDowell.

The Michigan State defensive tackle has been showing up in early 2017 mock drafts, and he’ll likely show up on everyone’s preseason All-America teams. The former five-star recruit has lived up to the hype so far after two impressive seasons in the middle of the Spartan defensive line.

It certainly isn’t bold to say that McDowell projects as a first-round pick. It is bold to say that McDowell is the best NFL prospect in the entire 2017 class.

ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay didn’t quite say that, but he paid McDowell quite the compliment.

It obviously isn’t known how many players McShay looked at, but he did already put McDowell at No. 15 in his way-too-early 2017 mock draft.

McShay’s colleague, Mel Kiper Jr., was actually even higher on McDowell in his early projection. He had the MSU lineman going No. 6 overall as the first true defensive lineman off the board.

McDowell certainly warrants that type of hype. The versatile defensive tackle is the lone returning starter on Michigan State’s defensive line, and is expected to have a monster 2016 season.

The junior already appeared in 27 games and he has 17 career tackles for loss. The second-team All-B1G selection was one of the main reasons that the Spartans reached their first College Football Playoff in 2015.

If he finishes 2016 as an All-American, as many expect him to, it won’t be a matter of whether or not McDowell will enter the draft. The question will be how high can he go.