10 Texas Sleepers That Can Increase Draft Stock at NFL Combine

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Photo: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

The country is two weeks away from the week-long 2018 NFL Combine on Feb. 27 and 326 participants were invited to come out to showcase their talents in front of the top scouts across the nation. Nineteen of those were selected from Texas colleges this year, including a wide array of talent that could creep into the top rounds of the NFL draft.

Below are the top 10 players from Texas schools who could raise their draft stock after the combine:

1. Courtland Sutton (SMU, WR)

Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2

The 6-foot-4 receiver out of Brenham High School has been one of the most sought out receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft. The former SMU Mustang decided to forgo his senior season to declare for the NFL and is ranked as high as the second-best receiver available. Sutton caught 68 passes for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior season.

If he can successfully display his speed to NFL scouts during workouts, Sutton could climb to the first round of the draft. He has good hands and body control, which could make him a desired pickup by teams.

2. Marcus Davenport (UTSA, DL)

Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2

Video courtesy Devo Highlights

The 6-foot-6 and 255-pound defensive lineman has been making waves and continues to rise in mock draft leaderboards. Through his athletics upbringings at San Antonio Stevens High School playing football, basketball and running track and field to shining moments with the University of Texas at San Antonio, Davenport is a Texas-bred athlete that continues to improve as years go on.

Davenport will bring speed to the NFL Combine, with his expertise coming as a rush end. He was a stand-up rusher for the Roadrunners, but could be asked to play a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Through the Combine, he will need to showcase his speed to his strengths and show off his developed footwork.

3. Will Hernandez (UTEP, G)

Draft Projection: Rounds 1-3

One of the few gems that came out of University of Texas at El Paso’s 0-12 season was Will Hernandez, who was a highly-touted lineman since his junior year of high school. The Las Vegas native spent four seasons in Texas with the Miners and started all 37 games through his college career. He was also named a second-team AP All-American in 2016 and 2017.

Hernandez’s ability to move makes him a run-heavy lineman that can create significant opportunities for the offense on the first and second levels of plays. The fact that he joined boxing gyms to develop his strengths may show how focused he is for an opportunity with an NFL team. This off-season, Hernandez has been rising in the projected draft charts, and it will be up to his performance in the combine to make up for his shorter than desired height as a 6-foot-2 lineman.

4. Joseph Noteboom (TCU, OT)

Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3

Noteboom has been one of the most consistent pieces on TCU’s offensive line. He’s protected four different quarterbacks with four different styles. Photo courtesy Keith Robinson

The Plano native and Texas Christian University tackle could raise his draft stock through his time at the combine. Not only has he has played every contest since 2014, he played right tackle and protected Treyvone Boykin his sophomore year and protected the blind sides of Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson during his junior and senior year.

What may make him such a desirable candidate is his athleticism and ability to move on the line. Through the combine process, NFL scouts will keep an eye on his ability to maintain consistency through drills, which is something he struggles with. However, Noteboom was a catch at the Senior Bowl among all tackles. With a good Combine outing, he could find his way into the second round of the draft.

5. Armani Watts (Texas A&M, S)

Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3

Former North Forney defender Armani Watts could find himself in the fourth round or higher with a good showing at the NFL Combine. Ray Carlin/USA TODAY Sports

The four-year starter at safety for the Aggies finished his time as a collegiate athlete as a third-team Associated Press All-American and a second-team All-Southeastern Conference player. During his final season in College Station, he had 87 tackles (10 TFL), four interceptions, five deflections, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks.

The North Forney High School graduate will need to display smooth agility and ability to make plays on the ball in skill drills. If he can guarantee more consistency as a tackler and impress at the combine, he could possibly squeeze into the first round.

6. Michael Dickerson (Texas, P)

Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3

How many punters can say that they were named an MVP of a bowl game?

Due to his outstanding performance in the Texas Bowl against Missouri, Dickson won the MVP award in the Texas Longhorns’ victory. Throughout his senior year, the punter averaged an impressive 48.8 yards per kick and had 20 fall inside the 20 yard line.

Dickson, an Australian native who played three seasons for the Horns, could find himself being the first punter selected in the draft. NFL draft scouts will keep an eye out to see if he improved on his hangtime through the off-season, but needless to say his size and probability to improve as a kicker makes him a must-have.

7. Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech, QB)

Draft Projection: Rounds 4-5

Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek. Troy Taormina/ USA TODAY Sports

Any team that needs a sharp back-up quarterback needs to look no further than Corsicana Midlred High School’s former gunslinger. After throwing for 3,963 yards and 33 touchdowns for the Red Raiders last season during his first year as a starter, Shimonek emerged as a pro-style quarterback with a good build and mid-draft promise.

He also threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the East vs. West Shrine Game.

The 6-foot-3 quarterback can throw the ball without a doubt, but his inexperience at the starting spot is what turns certain NFL scouts off about Shimonek. Throughout the Combine, he will need to show that he is a serious candidate with his cannon of an arm and follow the path of Mitch Trubisky, who started only 13 games at North Carolina.

8. Dylan Cantrell (Texas Tech, WR)

Draft Projection: Rounds 5-6

Six-foot-3 wide receiver Cantrell could see the field at the professional level in the fall because of the speed he showed in Texas Tech’s air raid offense. The Whitehouse High School graduate caught 71 passes in 2017 for 816 yards and recorded seven touchdowns for the Red Raiders.

At the combine, Cantrell has to find a way to stand out among all the top receivers who will enter the 2018 draft, whether it’s through speed drills or strength testing. The good thing for him, however, is many teams are in need of receivers to add depth to their team.

9. John Franklin-Myers (SFA, DE)

Draft Projection: Round 7, Undrafted

Franklin’s rare combination of power and speed may be a draft changer if he can display it to scouts at the NFL Combine. Photo courtesy SFA Athletics

Being the lone Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) representative from Texas, Stephen F. Austin’s defensive end will have a lot to prove through this opportunity at the 2018 NFL Combine. Through Franklin-Myers’ senior season, he led his team in sacks and was second in the Southland Conference with 3.5. He finished his senior season with 55 total tackles.

The pass-rushing specialist out of Greenville High School will have to show his worth in the combine and make him a desirable candidate to pick up. He shined in the NFLPA bowl in January, which is what likely earned his spot in the combine.

10. Jeffrey Wilson (North Texas, RB)

Draft Projection: Round 7, Undrafted

Wilson, a 6-foot-0 running back out of North Texas, is a definite sleeper for this running back draft class. In such a heavy class, however, Wilson will need to do whatever he can at the Combine to gain attention from scouts.

He finished his senior season with 1,215 yards on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury in November. The Elkhart High School graduate will be a candidate on NFL draft boards if a team will take him as a risk of suffering another injury. However, his speed on the field and ability to score might be worth the risk for an NFL team.

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