Gophers defensive tackle Steven Richardson is only a junior, but with 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks, his NFL stock keeps rising.

Asked Thursday about the pros and cons for Richardson to declare early for the 2017 draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper said, “I’d say it’s better to go back [for his senior year] because the defensive tackle position is so good this year. It’s one of the best positions in the draft potentially.

“… With Richardson, while I liked everything I saw about him, I think another season would put him up in that top 5-8 defensive tackles overall. And certainly at that point, you’re looking at a 2-3 round bump from where he is right now, which is significant.”

Matt Miller, from BleacherReport.com, has four Gophers seniors listed on his latest 2017 NFL Draft Big Board: Mitch Leidner as the No. 13 QB, Jonah Pirsig as the No. 15 OT, Jalen Myrick as the No. 25 CB and Damarius Travis as the No. 28 safety.

Kiper said Myrick and Travis are probably “Day 3” draft prospects (rounds 4-7).

“It depends on how they test obviously; the Combine’s going to be important, their pro day is important. Richardson certainly had a big year along the defensive line. They’ve got players on both sides of the ball.

“Leidner I’m not as high on maybe as you thought you would be when you started back in August. I think he’s more of a late-round guy.”

Kiper did say it would help Leidner to go to the Senior Bowl, with that week of practices before NFL talent evaluators. Leidner and Pirsig have accepted invitations to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (Jan. 21 in Los Angeles). Myrick has accepted an invite to the East-West Shrine Game (Jan. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.), and senior DE Hank Ekpe has accepted an invite to the Tropical Bowl (mid-January in Daytona, Beach, Fla.).