2023 NFL Combine Sleepers


With the NFL Scouting Combine on the horizon, starting Feb. 28, rookie fever is upon us. Bijan Robinson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, CJ Stroud, Bryce Young and Jahymr Gibbs are a few of the household names who will be attending. 


But with over 300 players invited, there will be plenty of names who are under the radar. Below are five names you should keep an eye on this coming week. 

DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB

5-foot-11, 215 pounds

DeWayne McBride has been gaining some steam as of late. But for the most part, there’s little talk of him in most circles. He’s coming off his second 1,300-rushing-yard season and a second straight season of double-digit rushing touchdowns. He had 1,072 yards after contact and forced 73 missed tackles, per PFF. However, McBride doesn’t offer anything in the passing game, with only five career receptions for 29 yards.  

He offers great lower-body strength to rip through would-be tacklers and great contact balance to stay upright when defenders deliver a good lick. Even with this lower-body strength and leg drive, he struggles in the short-area runs sometimes, misses the hole or is stacked up due to poor pad level at the point of contact. He has good speed to rip off chunk plays when they are available but won’t be blowing us away in the 40 this week. He also has some wiggle in the open field to make guys miss, even though he won’t surprise us with his lateral agility. Overall, he seems like he’d slot in as an early-down grinder for any of the NFL teams running a committee-style backfield.

Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia

6-foot, 212 pounds 

Dontayvion Wicks had a down season after erupting for over 1,200 receiving yards last year, in large part due to a philosophy change on offense. He has only played 22 games at Virginia but managed to produce over 1,600 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on just 90 receptions. This past season, he recorded a mere 430 receiving yards and saw his yards per reception drop from 21.1 to 14.3. This was no surprise, as his aDOT dropped a full four yards in 2022. Additionally, he had his worst season catching the ball, dropping 23.1% of his targets, according to PFF. 

Wicks has flashed a huge upside, but it was only one year of decent production, so there are still questions left unanswered. At the Senior Bowl, we saw some flashes, but this week will really help him, and posting some quality numbers will improve his draft stock. As an average-sized wide receiver, he does a great job using his speed and releases to stack defensive backs creating separation downfield. He’s also very strong at tracking the ball while it’s in the air and adjusts well to it. He also has a knack for winning the contested balls with great body control. There’s some grit to his game as well. He is a tenacious blocker and is willing to battle within routes and after the catch. With the down season in 2022, Wicks will need a strong NFL Combine to reassure the scouts that 2021 wasn’t a fluke. 


Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma

5-foot-11, 184 pounds 

Marvin Mims has been on the draft radar for a few years now and has been an electric playmaker for the Sooners. As a freshman in 2020, he tied for the Big 12 lead in receiving touchdowns with nine but has failed to get back to that level since. Although the touchdowns weren’t there, Mims led the Big 12 the past two seasons in yards per reception on his way to over 1,700 receiving yards. According to PFF, he has one of the higher aDOTs (16.3 yards) and yards per route run (2.71) of this 2023 class. 

With a career average of 19.5 yards per reception, it’s no surprise that Mims wins often with his speed and quickness. He does a phenomenal job before the catch at attacking space with his speed. Although he’s had limited route exposure, he has shown a knack for getting open for his quarterback. This speed and quickness also carries over to after the catch, where he’ll hurt you if you give him even an inch. He also has shown the ability to line up and win from the slot, in the backfield or on the perimeter. He has some issues with drops – some really bad ones – but he’s fairly reliable and can play bigger than his size to win in contested situations. It’s more likely he becomes a slot/utility player at the NFL level, but he is worth keeping an eye on this coming week. 

Dontay Demus, WR, Maryland

6-foot-3, 217 pounds 

Dontay Demus was a three-star recruit via 247sports when he joined Maryland in 2018 but ended up with just over 2,000 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns over five seasons with the Terrapins. With shortened seasons due to COVID-19 and an ACL injury, Demus never put up a huge statistical season. However, he had 625 yards and six touchdowns on 41 receptions as a sophomore. He’s coming off his worst season statistically, only producing 233 yards and a score on 22 receptions, but he was recovering from his ACL injury the year before. 

Demus is that prototypical X wide receiver who has the length and size to win against tall, strong defensive backs. He’s shown the ability to defeat press and zone coverages with his speed and strength combination. His ability to track the ball and win consistently above the rim makes him a great field stretcher. This also carries over into the red zone, as he is a tough matchup because of his length. It’s unlikely he becomes a force at the NFL level, but he has the mold to become a great complementary option on the perimeter to a featured slot wide receiver. 

Travis Dye, RB, USC

5-foot-9, 204 pounds 

In what is a loaded running back class, Travis Dye is somewhat of a forgotten name, but he shouldn’t be. Dye has produced four seasons of over 800 scrimmage yards in his five-year college career. In 2021, his last season at Oregon, he posted a career-high 1,271 rushing yards and over 1,600 scrimmage yards as he carried the load for the Ducks. This year he took a step back with the Trojans, as he was one of many weapons, but still topped 1,000 scrimmage yards. 

Dye is likely to transition into a complementary role at the NFL level, but he is a true dual-threat running back. He has a quick stride that allows him to make subtle movements to avoid would-be tacklers. He has a slasher-style of running with average speed but can produce chunk plays when available. Unlike other small-framed backs, he has a fierce running style that always allows him to consistently win between the tackles. He won’t run guys over, but he will pick up positive yards and fall forward. With a lack of explosiveness, he likely won’t blow us away at the combine, but he reminds me of Michael Carter and could certainly earn an NFL role this week.

Honorable Mentions

  • Derius Davis, WR, TCU
  • Tiyon Evans, RB, Louisville
  • Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
  • Antoine Green, WR, North Carolina
  • Rakim Jarrett, WR, Maryland
  • Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
  • Joseph Ngata, WR, Clemson
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