CLEMSON -- The NFL draft projections are in, and at least one Clemson player is wavering on the decision to turn pro.
Defensive end Phillip Merling is considering whether to forgo his final season of eligibility after receiving feedback Thursday from the NFL Advisory Committee.
Safety Michael Hamlin said he is leaning toward returning after being identified as a likely fourth-round selection. Tailback James Davis' preference remains unannounced.
At least seven Tigers petitioned the committee, which consists of a dozen general managers and scouting directors.
Quarterback Cullen Harper, receiver Aaron Kelly, defensive tackle Dorell Scott and safety Chris Clemons submitted petitions more out of curiosity than a desire to leave.
Merling is believed to have been projected as a second-round pick and is giving serious thought to departing.
He, along with the other juniors who petitioned the committee, are scheduled to meet individually with coach Tommy Bowden before a team meeting Tuesday.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare early entry is Jan. 15.
Draft analyst Mike Detellier said he thinks Merling would be among the top 10 players selected in 2009 if he returns. Yet Detellier said Merling faces an intriguing choice because of the lack of depth in this year's defensive end class, which takes a "Mount Everest drop" after Virginia's Chris Long.
Merling figures to have increased value in the NFL draft as one of the few ends who could fit into a 3-4 scheme because of his size (6-foot-5, 280 pounds) and dual abilities to rush the passer and stop the run.
"He has a very similar situation to Gaines Adams in that if he would have come out, he would have probably gone late first, early second," Detellier said. "But by coming back, he instantly becomes one of the top guys next year."
Adams, who played opposite of Merling's strong side end position a year ago, returned for his senior season and climbed to the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
His case is often cited by Davis, who last week said he would leave if projected as a first-rounder, stay if he was projected to be a third-rounder and have a decision to make if projected into the second round.
However, his uncle, William Stephenson, said Thursday that Davis decided with family members last month he would return for 2008.
The NFL committee did not mail its responses until after Clemson completed its bowl game, so most players were just learning of their projections Thursday.
The Tigers lost to Auburn 23-20 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, after which Davis said he intended to return.
"He's coming back next year," Stephenson said. "His mind is made up. We talked about it before the bowl game. The best thing for James is to get his degree."
Attempts to reach Davis and Merling were unsuccessful.
Hamlin, a redshirt junior, was identified as a likely fifth-round pick by the committee a year ago.
"Unless something crazy happens, I'm coming back," said Hamlin, who is two classes shy of graduating.
In a season wrap-up teleconference Thursday, Bowden declined to divulge player grades, revealing only that no one received a first-round projection.
"I would feel real good after knowing the information and talking to (NFL personnel) today that ... we've got a pretty good track record here on giving good advice on the results of (pro) advice," Bowden said. "And based on that, it's going to be pretty obvious what those guys need to do."