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Michigan State's Malik McDowell intends to enter 2017 NFL draft

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Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell will apply for early eligibility into the 2017 NFL Draft.

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McDowell announced his decision via Twitter on Tuesday, calling the decision a difficult one and promising to complete his MSU degree.

When healthy, McDowell was a versatile and disruptive presence on the Spartans' defensive front, playing both end and tackle. At 6-foot-6, 276 pounds, he has the length and athleticism that NFL scouts look for. His production this year, however, didn't match his talent. His junior season was compromised by an ankle injury that sidelined him for MSU's last three regular-season games against Rutgers, Ohio State and Penn State. He's also been nagged by rib injuries this year. McDowell made 1.5 sacks among seven tackles for loss in nine games, eight of them starts. In 2015 as a sophomore, he didn't miss a start in MSU's 14 games, making 13 tackles for loss (including 4.5 sacks) and two forced fumbles.

Before the season began, McDowell said he would only enter the draft as an underclassman if he was projected as a top-three selection. Underclassmen have until a Jan. 16 deadline to apply for early draft entry.

College Football 24/7 voted McDowell the nation's No. 20 player before the season.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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