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Sleeper Prospects that Boosted Stock at 2019 NFL Combine

by Ethan Sauers | @ethansauers | Featured Writer
Mar 8, 2019

Justice Hill showcased his elite athleticism at the combine

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 2019 NFL Combine.

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Tyree Jackson (QB – Buffalo)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.59 seconds (2nd out of 15 QBs)
  • Bench Press: N/A
  • Vertical: 34.5″ (1st out of 15)
  • Broad Jump: 120″ (t-1st out of 14)
  • 3-Cone: 7.09 seconds (t-5th out of 13)
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.28 seconds (t-5th out of 13)
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
The Buffalo Bulls have only had 14 players ever drafted into the NFL. Of those 14, none of them have been QBs and only two have been selected before the fourth round. “Buffalo Bulls QB” and “NFL pedigree” just aren’t two phrases that have often been linked, and for that reason, it has been easy to overlook Tyree Jackson’s production.  

How he helped his stock?
Jackson already had a little buzz around him before going into the draft as he’d been mentioned as a strong-armed project-QB that is raw with high potential. With the numbers he posted at the combine, it’s easy to say that he was able to highlight his athleticism and draw attention to the fact that he’s more than just a strong arm. Jackson tested very well in drills, showcasing his lower-body power and was still above average in his agility drills. I think he will be a strong contender to be the next QB selected after the consensus top-three (Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, and Drew Lock) go off the board.

Easton Stick (QB – North Dakota State)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.62 seconds (3rd out of 15 QBs)
  • Bench Press: N/A
  • Vertical: 33.5″ (t-3rd out of 15)
  • Broad Jump: 118″ (3rd out of 14)
  • 3-Cone: 6.65 seconds (1st out of 13)
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.05 seconds (1st out of 13)
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
Making the jump from the FCS into the NFL will always be a card that doubters can play against you as the jump in competition is undoubtedly a bit larger than that of FBS to NFL. However, Stick also had the task of filling Carson Wentz’s shoes as the starting QB for the Bison and his comparison shows a few shortcomings (mainly decision-making and an average arm) that have held down his stock.

How he helped his stock?
At the combine, Stick was able to prove that he is one of the more athletic QBs coming into the league this year. Placing in the top-three of every drill he participated in, Stick’s ability to move around in the pocket and be slippery upon escape are points that help his stock. After leaving Indy with an impressive performance, he is even drawing a few comparisons to Jimmy Garoppolo.   

Justice Hill (RB – Oklahoma State)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.40 seconds (1st out of 23 RBs)
  • Bench Press: 13 reps ( t-10th out of 26)
  • Vertical: 40″ (1st out of 24)
  • Broad Jump: 130″ (t-1st out of 23)
  • 3-Cone: N/A
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
The questions around any sub-200-lb., 5’10” RB will be about their durability and whether or not they can be an every-down back. Hill’s performance at Oklahoma State was impressive, but it’s easy to say that he was a beneficiary of the spread offense clearing out the box for ample running room.

How he helped his stock?
If you’re going to be a role player in the NFL, you have to show that you can be one of the top options in that role across the league. Hill’s ability to mesh with the passing game and using open space to make defenders miss are emphasized with his impressive testing. Finishing first in his position group in the 40-yard dash, vertical, and broad jump back up the idea that he can be a shifty back that can be showcased in any phase of the game.

Alex Barnes (RB – Kansas State)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.59 seconds (19th out of 23 RBs)
  • Bench Press: 34 reps (1st out of 26)
  • Vertical: 38.5″ (3rd out of 24)
  • Broad Jump: 126″ (5th out of 23)
  • 3-Cone: 6.95 seconds (2nd out of 16)
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.10 seconds (t-1st out of 16)
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: 11.72 seconds (2nd out of 4)

Why was he a sleeper?
Kansas State’s 5-7 record certainly didn’t help things for Barnes, but the main reason his top-10 rushing performance went unnoticed last season may be attributed to his lack of touchdowns. Barnes averaged a touchdown per game last season and his game was primarily one dimensional as his usage in the passing game was minimal.

How he helped his stock?
Outside of the 40-yard dash, Barnes absolutely smashed his competition in nearly every drill. He broke Jerick McKinnon’s RB record of 32 reps on the bench press, continued to showcase his burst with the vertical and broad jump, and highlighted his agility with the 3-cone and shuttles. Barnes wasn’t even on the radar for most scouts heading into the combine but he definitely made it clear that his tape warrants a watch moving forward.

Andy Isabella (WR – UMass)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.31 seconds (t-1st out of 37 WRs)
  • Bench Press: 15 reps (t-15th out of 42)
  • Vertical: 36.5″ (t-20th out of 42)
  • Broad Jump: 121″ (t-22nd out of 42)
  • 3-Cone: 6.95 seconds (6th out of 29)
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.15 seconds (t-6th out of 33)
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
This is another case of a player being overlooked simply due to what school he’s coming from. Isabella’s usage at UMass allowed for him to start climbing up big boards prior to the combine, but being a small-school prospect, he’ll have to overcome bias in similar ways that former UMass receivers (like Tajae Sharpe and Marken Michel) have done in the past.

How he helped his stock?
Prior to the combine, Isabella was drawing plenty of Patriot WR comps (Edelman, Welker, Amendola, etc.) as his skill set lends itself to him becoming a great slot receiver with sure hands. After the drills, Isabella’s athleticism shows he has the potential explosiveness to take the top off of defenses and be utilized in other aspects of an offense. That versatility is the difference between getting drafted in the first two rounds and falling into the fourth. I would expect Isabella’s stock to continue to rise leading up to the draft.

Emanuel Hall (WR – Missouri)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.39 seconds (t-6th out of 37 WRs)
  • Bench Press: 15 reps (t-15th out of 42)
  • Vertical: 43.5″ (t-1st out of 42)
  • Broad Jump: 141″ (1st out of 42)
  • 3-Cone: N/A
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Why was he a sleeper?
Quite frankly, Emanuel Hall’s stock has been held down mainly because of how deep this WR class seems to be. In a different year, Hall’s name would have emerged much sooner. Another concern is a groin injury which kept him out of four games during his senior year.

How he helped his stock?
After suffering the groin injury last year, seeing Hall excel in the vertical and broad jump show the power and athleticism of his lower body are back and just as impressive as they were pre-injury. Hall has carved out his niche as a deep-ball threat that can go up and get a ball and his stats this past weekend back that up emphatically.

Foster Moreau (TE – LSU)

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.66 seconds (5th out of 19 TEs)
  • Bench Press: 22 reps (t-2nd out of 18)
  • Vertical: 36.5″ (t-3rd out of 18)
  • Broad Jump: 121″ (4th out of 16)
  • 3-Cone: 7.16 seconds (7th out of 18)
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.11 seconds(1st out of 18)
  • 60-Yard Shuttle: 11.81 seconds (4th out of 16)

Why was he a sleeper?
Some teams just don’t utilize TEs; LSU is one of them. His stat line last year was 22 receptions for 272 yards and 2 TDs. That doesn’t jump off the page like some of the other TEs that are available this year and his box scores were very easy to overlook.

How he helped his stock?
Being a TE, versatility is a gift from the football gods. Foster Moreau came out and excelled in every category — strength, speed, and agility — in his testing. After the two Iowa TEs and perhaps after Irv Smith Jr., the TE class is wide-open and fairly deep. After showcasing his aptitude in a variety of skills, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Foster Moreau start to narrow the gap.

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 Nashville, 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 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.

Combine, Featured, NFL, NFL Draft, Sleepers