NFL Combine Sleepers Primed for Breakout Performances

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2013

NFL Combine Sleepers Primed for Breakout Performances

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    The NFL Scouting Combine is nighthe annual dog and pony show to give college football prospects a chance to seize momentum heading into the heart of draft season.

    There are plenty of big names expected to do well, but who are some of the more underrated prospects that should fare well?

    Here are 10 such sleepers who are primed for breakout performances at the combine. 

Shamarko Thomas

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    Syracuse isn't exactly known for its stout defense, but Shamarko Thomas might be one of the more athletic guys in the 2013 draft. After all, how many prospects walk around campus pushing cars? Via Dave Rahme, The Post-Standard:

    Then his eyes settled on junior strong safety Shamarko Thomas, who had seemed to add yet another layer of muscle onto his already taut frame in the off-season.

    “Crazy,” Tribbey said. “That guy is crazy. I would go over his place to watch TV or play video games and he would be outside pushing his car around. Uphill. By himself.”

    That may be a bit of hyperbole, but a guy that strong with purported 4.3 speed? Where is the hype?

    The hype train starts at the NFL combine.

Quinton Patton

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    If speed is what you need, Quinton Patton might be your man.

    The 6'0" receiver was a big part of Louisiana Tech's explosive offense last year. Patton nabbed nearly 1,400 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns as the Bulldogs averaged 51.5 points per game last season.

    When the dust settles after the 40 times are posted, don't be surprised to find Patton near the top of the leaderboard, which could have him moving up after next week.

Kyle Long

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    Athleticism is key in Oregon's napalm offense, so it should come as no surprise that their linemen are good athletes.

    Kyle Long, Howie Long's son, might be one of the draft's biggest risers after the combine if he performs to his potential.

Terrance Williams

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    It would have been no surprise if Baylor experienced a major offensive drop-off when Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright departed Baylor, but that was not the case last season. Terrance Williams was a big reason why.

    The stud senior lived in Wright's shadow before taking over as the top receiving option last season, and he thrived in that role. He did so, in part, because of his speed.

    Right now Williams sits in a second or third tier of receivers, but he should show off that speed and get bumped up a few notches.

Brandon McGee

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    If there is one thing Miami is known for, it's speed.

    NFL U has had some of the fastest combine participants over the years, and this year should be no different. Brandon McGee comes in as a no frills senior prospect from a bad pass defense, but that shouldn't stop him from having a good showing at the combine.

    Just like DeMarcus Van Dyke, Lamar Miller and a host of others, McGee should light up the stopwatches this week.

Da'Rick Rogers

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    Tennessee has three receivers expected to be taken in the draft, and Da'Rick Rogers is the most troublesome of the bunch.

    The talented receiver technically hails from Tennessee Tech after getting booted off the Volunteers squad for some failed drug tests. 

    At 6'3", Rogers will be an imposing figure among the wide receiver group. He will show off a wide range of athleticism to boot, which will perhaps be enough to get teams to look past his past troubles.

Arthur Brown

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    Arthur Brown isn't a true sleeper—most draft pundits have him in the first or second round—but he is still flying relatively under the radar for a guy with immense potential.

    They say he is undersized. Then again, that's what they said about Ray Lewis.

    Brown's athleticism should shine brightly at the NFL combine, where he could lock himself in as a top-20 pick.

Stedman Bailey

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    One of the draft's more underrated players makes his way to the NFL from Morgantown, West Virginia. Stedman Bailey has been in Tavon Austin's shadow, but he very well could become the better pro.

    The question is whether he will climb out of Austin's shadow during the NFL combine. The detonator is primed for Bailey to explode, but one of the knocks on his draft profile is a lack of explosiveness.

    Where he will shine is during receiver drills, where he can show off his route-running skills and soft hands.

Travis Kelce

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    Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert are dueling for the top spot at tight end this draft season, but Travis Kelce will make a strong case of his own during the NFL combine.

    Eric Stoner paints a pretty picture for Kelce at Rotoworld:

    Kelce will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as he goes through the pre-draft process. 

    Part of what makes Gronkowski such an impressive NFL tight end (and why Kelce compares favorably to him) is because he’s a strong, technically sound, and tenacious blocker, and the Bearcats use his talents in a number of ways in their run game.

    That is high praise. Kelce will be one to watch at the combine.

Menelik Watson

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    Menelik Watson didn't start his football career in earnest until 2011. One year at junior college followed by another at FSU after a basketball career leaves him entering the draft as a raw prospect despite being 24 years old.

    His biggest asset besides his size at 6'7" and 320 pounds is his athleticism, which should be on full display at the NFL combine.