One benefit of gaining some investment experience is that you start to develop your ability to research stocks and uncover the potential returns in stocks beyond the current "hot buys."

These may be companies that have fallen out of favor, they may face unusual headwinds or risks, or they may have just lost some interest from the markets. For various reasons, three of our analysts think astute investors may find these currently beleaguered stocks compelling: Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), retail behemoth Nike (NYSE:NKE), and energy behemoth Enbridge (NYSE:EEP).

Familiar Territory

Tim Brugger (Qualcomm): The uncertainties surrounding Qualcomm's legal issues have weighed heavily on its stock, driving it down 12% in 2017. The chipmaker and tech powerhouse is facing a fine of $854 million from a South Korea  regulatory body and a legal fight with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over its all-important licensing fees.

Then there's the $1 billion legal "piling on" by longtime customer Apple. That dispute also compelled  Qualcomm to lower this quarter's guidance by $500 million, after the iPhone maker decided not to pay its suppliers the licensing fees for the Qualcomm patents they're using in components for its devices, meaning those suppliers, in turn, can't pay their fees to Qualcomm.

Thing is, new lawsuits in the tech industry are practically a daily occurrence, not to mention Qualcomm has been down this path before. In February 2015, it ponied up $975 million to settle an antitrust dispute with China  over its dominant smartphone patent portfolio. Fast-forward to today, and Qualcomm routinely cites China as a primary driver of its growth -- and it's definitely growing.

Excluding one-time items, Qualcomm's sales climbed 8% to $6 billion last quarter. Strict management of overhead -- operating expenses  rose just 3.6% -- helped push earnings per share (EPS) up an impressive 29% to $1.34, well above last year's $1.04 a share. Its forays into autonomous cars, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and data security, all offer phenomenal growth opportunities, and Qualcomm is going all in on them.

For investors who would rather stop to investigate this stock further while others are running for the hills, Qualcomm and its 4% dividend yield warrant a good, long look -- whether it has to write a couple more lawsuit-related checks or not.

City skyline with stock price chart in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

The biggest brand in sports

Keith Noonan (Nike): A challenging domestic retail climate and weaker-than-expected orders have dampened the market's enthusiasm for Nike; the Swoosh's share price is roughly flat over the last year while the S&P 500 has gained roughly 17%. Still, while there might be some plateaus and hiccups in the company's ongoing growth story, Nike stock still looks like a long-term winner.

Even with the retail slowdown, the company's most recent quarter saw it post a 24% year-over-year earnings increase on a 5% sales gain. Looking ahead, efforts to improve its product development timeline, as well as opportunities for continued expansion in key markets like Europe and China, point to further growth for the most valuable brand in sports. The company's focus on direct-to-consumer selling is another potential source of ongoing earnings momentum, as it eliminates the cuts taken by retail middlemen and will likely boost margins.

Nike is also an exciting dividend-growth stock. Its yield might not look big at 1.3%, but the company has boosted its payout for 15 years running, and has a fantastic track record of double-digit percentage dividend boosts, with an average annual increase of 14.7% over the last decade. With its payout ratio sitting at just 30% and promising avenues to grow earnings and cash flow, Nike should have little trouble delivering dividend growth down the line.

Trading at less than 22 times forward earnings estimates, Nike looks like a worthwhile large-cap portfolio addition given its earnings and dividend growth potential. 

A history of hitting the target

Matt DiLallo (Enbridge): Because oil prices can be unpredictable, Enbridge has avoided investing in situations where those prices or volumes could impact its financial results. That's clear from the current makeup of its portfolio since 96% of its earnings come from stable and predictable sources while only 5% have any volume exposure. That sharp focus on minimizing risk has enabled the company to pay dividends for the past 64 years, and raise the payout in each of the last 22. That growing income stream has helped investors earn an 18% compound annual total return over the last decade.

Despite its large size, Enbridge expects to continue growing at a healthy clip over the next several years because it has secured the biggest backlog of capital projects in the energy infrastructure sector. It's currently working on 26 billion Canadian dollars' ($19.6 billion) worth of projects that should grow its cash flow at a 12% to 14% annual clip through 2019.

Meanwhile, it has another CA$48 billion ($36.2 billion) of longer-term projects under development, which leads the company to believe it can grow its dividend by 10% to 12% annually all the way through 2024. Given that it has historically increased its payout by 11.2% annually over the past two decades, that forecast isn't wishful thinking, but merely a continuation of the company's momentum.

With a stable business model and visible growth prospects on the horizon, Enbridge is a low-risk stock that has a high probability of paying off over the long term.

Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. Matt DiLallo owns shares of Apple. Matt DiLallo has the following options: long January 2018 $45 calls on Nike and short July 2017 $57.5 calls on Nike. Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Nike, and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.