Sleeper Prospects that Boosted Stock at NFL Combine

Mar 8, 2018

The Combine has this mystique about it that can really only be explained away by the fact that most fans are so starved for football in March that they’ll take anything remotely resembling “football-like activities.” Despite this, the Underwear Olympics really do have an impact on the stock of each player as they move closer to the draft and that impact needs to be examined as it indicates what teams may be proper fits for certain players and their specific skill sets. Each and every Spring there are players who start coming out of nowhere and separating themselves from the crowd to make some noise. At this point in the fantasy football offseason, knowing more rookie names and their athletic profiles before your competition is vital (particularly for dynasty leagues but also for re-drafts) as the analysis on landing spots becomes that much easier. So let’s take a look at a few prospects who came out of hibernation during the 2018 Combine.

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Kyle Lauletta (QB – Richmond)

40-Yard Dash: 4.81 seconds (t-6th out of 17 QBs)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical: 31″ (t-4th out of 17)
Broad Jump: 113″ (4th out of 17)
3-Cone: 6.95 seconds (3rd out of 16)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.07 seconds (1st out of 16)
60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
The last QB to get drafted from the Richmond Spiders was Harry Knight in 1975 and he failed to make the Raiders roster and spent a few years in the CFL. Lauletta is hoping for a more positive outcome but one of the big obstacles he has to overcome is the stereotype of FCS talent. His arm strength isn’t considered to be enough to make every “NFL throw” and his ability to make the right decisions when under pressure has come into question by the scouts (which is valid after throwing 35 interceptions in the last three years).

How he helped his stock?
So the main thing that comes along with the FCS label is this perception that they are substandard in terms of athleticism and measurables. Lauletta was able to shake that by testing in the top third of every event he participated in while at the Combine. On top of his great drills, the throwing portion of his workout jumped out as he demonstrated his NFL accuracy.

Josh Allen (QB – Wyoming)

40-Yard Dash: 4.75 seconds (3rd out of 17 QBs)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical: 33.5″ (1st out of 17)
Broad Jump: 119″ (1st out of 17)
3-Cone: 6.90 seconds (2nd out of 16)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.40 seconds (t-8th out of 16)
60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
Okay, so Allen isn’t a “sleeper” in the traditional sense of the word, but the Wyoming QB had come under pretty extreme fire since the end of his Junior season. After being touted as one of the top two or three QBs in this class last offseason, Allen’s been slammed with critiques of his underwhelming completion percentage against lesser competition than QBs from Power Five schools. Coming into the Combine, Allen was seen as the fourth or fifth best QB in this class by many and potentially sliding deep through the first round.

How he helped his stock?
Part of what helped Josh Allen in Indy was his impressive performance in his drills (showcasing his athleticism). However, Allen’s performance during his passing portion was electric. Allen dropped dimes 70-yards down the field for completions to receivers that he had yet to practice with and provided scouts with a showing that reminded them why he was considered by some to be the best QB in this draft, last Spring.

Justin Jackson (RB – Northwestern)

40-Yard Dash: 4.52 seconds (t-6th out of 26 RBs)
Bench Press: 13 reps ( t-23rd out of 29)
Vertical: 38.5″ (t-4th out of 28)
Broad Jump: 122″ (t-5th out of 25)
3-Cone: 6.81 seconds (2nd out of 13)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.07 seconds (t-1st out of 18)
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.06 seconds (1st out of 6)

Why was he a sleeper?
Jackson had a tremendous career at Northwestern but there are two big things working against him coming into the draft. The first is the fact that this is just a deep RB class with lots of dynamic playmakers. The second is the mileage that has already taken its toll on his body. Jackson was a starter all four years and was featured heavily in a Big Ten offense. He already has 1,142 career carries (compared to Barkley’s 671 and Guice’s 471) and NFL scouts and GMs have concerns that he may not have as much “tread on the tires” as the guys ranked ahead of him.

How he helped his stock?
Coming out and doing the full workout of the combine is something that only six RBs did this year and Jackson was arguably the most impressive of that grouping. His 40-time showed he’s still got the same flash that jumped off the tape over the last four years and great times in the 3-Cone and Shuttles demonstrated the agility and shiftiness that put him in the Wildcats record book. His Vertical and Broad Jump ranked high and give a bit more confidence to GMs that may have been concerned about his narrow base (as his scores prove the lower body explosiveness is still there).

Chase Edmonds (RB – Fordham)

40-Yard Dash: 4.55 seconds (12th out of 26 RBs)
Bench Press: 19 reps (8th out of 29)
Vertical: 34″ (t-12th out of 28)
Broad Jump: 122″ (t-5th out of 25)
3-Cone: 6.79 seconds (1st out of 13)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.07 seconds (t-1st out of 18)
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.63 seconds (2nd out of 6)

Why was he a sleeper?
After four years at Fordham, Edmonds sees the same knocks against him as he did when he came out of high school. Being 5’9″, there are concerns about his durability that are compounded after suffering leg injuries in his senior season. Additionally, scouts feel his processing of the game is just a bit behind schedule as he struggles to pick up blitzes and choosing running lanes.

How he helped his stock?
Honestly, Edmonds’ tape has scouts and GMs hoping he has a few years left in the tank. If not for the injury his senior year, he could have challenged the all-time FCS rushing record. He’s a stop-on-a-dime runner and has explosiveness that can really blow past defenders. Coming into the combine, he was projected as a sixth- or seventh-round flyer. However, showing that the athleticism is still there and his measurables stack up well (especially in agility) there is a lot to be excited about with Edmonds’ game. It’s safe to expect his ceiling is around the middle of the fourth round.

D.J. Moore (WR – Maryland)

40-Yard Dash: 4.42 seconds (5th out of 37 WRs)
Bench Press: 15 reps (t-13th out of 34)
Vertical: 39.5″ (2nd out of 38)
Broad Jump: 132″ (1st out of 37)
3-Cone: 6.95 seconds (t-16th out of 26)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.07 seconds (3rd out of 26)
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.18 seconds (3rd out of 18)

Why was he a sleeper?
The biggest negatives seen on Moore’s tape are simply a lack of polish on his route running and a lack of strength to make contested catches on 50-50 balls. There’s no doubt that he has the speed and explosiveness to take the top off of a defense but the question marks need to be processed before a team feels sure about a first-round selection. Prior to the Combine, Moore was seen as a likely second-round pick as the fifth or sixth receiver off the board.

How he helped his stock?
The man has flash. There’s no denying that his athletic profile just jumps out when you watch him in his drills in Indy. Showing the great vertical will likely lead some GMs to give a bit of a pass on his struggle with 50-50 balls, as they hope an NFL strength and conditioning regimen might solve that issue. The route running is coachable but the talent that Moore has is not and that bodes well for his stock. After the Combine, some see Moore as the second or third WR on their boards and talk that he could go as high as 16th to the Ravens.  

Dylan Cantrell (WR – Texas Tech)

40-Yard Dash: 4.59 seconds (31st out of 37 WRs)
Bench Press: 18 reps (t-7th out of 34)
Vertical: 38.5″ (3rd out of 38)
Broad Jump: 130″ (3rd out of 37)
3-Cone: 6.56 seconds (t-1st out of 26)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.03 seconds (1st out of 26)
60-Yard Shuttle: 10.85 seconds (1st out of 18)

Why was he a sleeper?
Cantrell lacks speed. He’s just not going to be a burner or create that separation with quickness at the next level. Additionally, his stats don’t really jump off the page (especially considering he was in an Air-Raid offense). Because of this, there’s a big hurdle standing between him and a team calling his name in April. Before coming to Indy, most scouts project him to be a sixth or seventh round pick if he’s picked at all.

How he helped his stock?
Some teams are suckers for metrics and if they are, Cantrell should have shot up their board this weekend. His composite score was the best of any receiver in the class and placed him in the 97th percentile in terms of athleticism for receivers in the NFL. The skills demonstrated (particularly his agility and lower-body strength) really help his outlook when combined with the knowns of his game (his impeccable hands and ability to use his body to gain advantages in coverage). That kind of a showing can easily raise his stock a few rounds and should almost guarantee a team takes a chance on him day three.  

Mike Gesicki (TE – Penn State)

40-Yard Dash: 4.54 seconds (t-1st out of 13 TEs)
Bench Press: 22 reps (2nd out of 13)
Vertical: 41.5″ (1st out of 13)
Broad Jump: 129″ (1st out of 13)
3-Cone: 6.76 seconds (1st out of 13)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.10 seconds(1st out of 13)
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.33 seconds (1st out of 9)

Why was he a sleeper?
The main critique of Gesicki’s game is his below-average ability to block. Many see him as strictly a receiving TE and thus limiting his potential to see immediate, meaningful playing time. Though Gesicki’s ability to go up and get jump balls is seen by all, there is some question if he’ll have the ability to gain separation underneath.

How he helped his stock?
Gesicki came out and had one of the best workouts that the Combine has ever seen. The athleticism really reinforces his red zone value and his ability to make the contested catches. He was able to put himself in the conversation to be taken off the board in the first round and could edge out Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State) and Mark Andrews (Oklahoma) as the first TE drafted.

Tyler Conklin (TE – Central Michigan)

40-Yard Dash: 4.80 seconds (9th out of 13 TEs)
Bench Press: 18 reps (t-5th out of 13)
Vertical: 38″ (2nd out of 13)
Broad Jump: 120″ (t-4th out of 13)
3-Cone: 7.13 seconds (5th out of 13)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.23 seconds(t-3rd out of 13)
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.43 seconds (2nd out of 9)

Why was he a sleeper?
After an impressive 2016 campaign, Conklin played through most of 2017 while recovering from a Jones fracture in his foot which caused his quickness and agility to suffer. Coming out of a smaller conference with issues of durability, teams want to know their investment is going to yield the soft-handed, athletic Conklin at 100%.

How he helped his stock?
Conklin finished in the top five of his position for every event other than the 40-Yard Dash. With such concern over his agility, it was very reassuring to see his performance shine in the 3-Cone and Shuttle events. Adding to that athletic profile, having the second best vertical (behind ridiculous Gesicki’s 41.5″) suggests his athleticism is equal (if not better) than the standouts in this deep TE class.

Moving forward in the pre-draft process, watch as the names mentioned above start to pick up steam. Pro Days and workouts will start to give a better framework of where these guys may fall in Arlington, this April. For some, that means they will hear their name called on the first night. For others, that means their name may not get called at all. However, let us continue processing the information we are given and develop views based on their tape and the measurables which are currently at our disposal. As each season proves, value can be found in each and every round, so you never know where you may find the next fantasy superstar.

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Ethan Sauers is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Ethan, check out his archive and follow him @ethansauers.

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