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Five second-day Draft prospects to watch at the 2018 NFL Combine

With on-field workouts just a day away, here are a handful of players that could see their stock rise with a strong showing over the weekend.

Las Vegas Bowl - Boise State v Oregon Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

As NFL fans prepare for NFL Combine weekend, the league’s annual Underwear Olympics, several young players are about to see their draft stocks rise and fall dramatically.

Whether it’s a blazing sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash or an agile showing in the three-cone drill, NFL hopefuls have an opportunity to match their athleticism directly against their peers. For NFL personnel, it’s a chance to see if that athleticism aligns with game film and gives that player a chance to be elite at his position in the near future.

Running backs, offensive linemen, and special teamers take the field on Friday, but before they do, here are five current second-day talents that have a chance to leave an impression at this year’s Combine.

D.J. Moore - Maryland - WR

Moore has been gaining steam in recent weeks as his film gets evaluated closer. The slot receiver draws some similarities to former Terrapin Stefon Diggs with his speed and ability to create after the catch and Moore is especially elusive, with high value in the short passing and return games. Along with his ability to shake defenders, Moore shifts gears quickly and has enough size (5’11) and strength in the slot to be a real weapon in an offense that features bubble screens.

Moore can get downfield, though he is a work in progress in this area. His film doesn’t always display the ability to cut sharply on routes, but it’s a skill that can be taught. If Moore can match the speed and change of direction on his film with his forty-yard dash and three-cone drill times, he could emerge as a fringe first round prospect with a rise reminiscent of Nelson Agholor in 2015.

Lamar Jackson - Louisville - QB

There is little doubt Jackson has a cannon for an arm and is an electric runner. But how fast is he? Could he run as fast as Michael Vick when he posted a 4.33 in the 40? Another interesting evaluation will be his explosiveness and shiftiness when stacked up against other athletes, regardless of position, in the cone and shuttle drills.

Jackson has some accuracy issues and is not a polished product as a pocket passer. But this is a serious opportunity for him to display his raw athleticism and get executives excited about his incredibly high ceiling. If he continues to progress, Jackson could be a quarterback with physical traits the league hasn’t seen since Vick. If nothing else, the Combine gives Jackson the ability to showcase his measurables to NFL teams as an athlete if quarterback doesn’t pan out. If Jackson tests as expected, there’s a high probability he is a first round pick.

Leighton Vander Esch - Boise State - ILB

One-year wonders are a risky proposition. Vander Esch falls into that category as a player that burst onto the scene as a junior after minimal production as a freshman and an injury-shortened sophomore campaign. But burst onto the scene he did with 141 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks.

On film, there’s a lot to like about Vander Esch. He’s extremely fluid for someone measuring around 6’4 and 240 pounds and that size and length really shows in game action. He’s aggressive and can get from sideline to sideline quickly, while showing significant potential as a blitzer in evading blocks. He drops into coverage and sniffs out runs well for his lack of experience, but could stand to improve his technique in taking on blocks in the running game where he can get covered up.

Vander Esch is hovering around the area of round two right now, but a Combine performance that cements the athleticism he shows on tape, especially in the three-cone drill, could make his stock surge into first round territory.

Dorance Armstrong, Jr. - Kansas - DE/EDGE

It’s been a tale of two seasons for Armstrong who shined in 2016 before a quiet 2017 season. The sack numbers dropped from 10 to two. His tackles for loss were cut in half from 20 to 10. With names like Arden Key, Harold Landry, and Marcus Davenport filling headlines, Armstrong has been covered up in the draft process and is another one of this year’s crop of edge rushers with true boom-or-bust potential.

Despite a lackluster season on paper, there are many, including an NFC scout, who believe there’s more to come from Armstrong.

“Don’t read too much into that sack total this year. They didn’t really cut him loose this year. I still like the talent and he will help himself at the Combine.”

On film, Armstrong shows some bend and twitch to go along with more-than-adequate size for an edge rusher. He also has experience as a stand-up rusher though he was oftentimes utilized as a down end. A knock on Armstrong is that he can rely on speed too much, becoming a one-trick pony. But he’s athletic and in a year where many of the popular pass rushers are far from sure things, Armstrong’s Combine could vault him into high second-round consideration.

Isaiah Oliver - Colorado - CB

Many want to see the 40-yard dash time that Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson posts, and for good reason. But there’s a lot of intrigue for Oliver, a lengthy corner that I identified midway through the 2017 season as a fit for the Green Bay Packers.

Oliver is 6’1 and physical, giving him an opportunity to match up with receivers on the boundary while providing excellent, consistent effort as a tackler. Three interceptions over his college career won’t jump off the page, but his ability to lock down receivers contributed to fewer opportunities. Colorado produced two NFL draft picks in the secondary last season and Oliver will be the next.

If the former track hurdler Oliver runs somewhere in the 4.4 or 4.5 second range in the 40-yard dash, he could sneak back into round one with his size-speed combination at a position of high demand.