For every stock out there screaming "buy me," others simply give us a nudge and a nod. While all the attention might be focused on their five-star peers, we can sift through Motley Fool CAPS to find four-star stocks giving us the "high sign" they're approaching greatness. 

These opportunities -- including familiar names and beaten-down companies -- rank higher than most of the other 5,400 starred companies, and it pays to investigate their potential. For consideration today, I've got this handful of stocks on their way to fame:

  • AK Steel (NYSE: AKS)
  • PPL (NYSE: PPL)
  • Tellabs (Nasdaq: TLAB)

As the 170,000-plus CAPS members have chosen these companies as less obvious sources for tomorrow's great buys, let's see why they might merit your attention.

In the sight of greatness?
The auto industry historically absorbs a large percentage of the steel produced globally, and when combined with the construction sector, it eats more than half. Throughout the recession, those two segments of the U.S. economy were knocked senseless, though China did its part propping them up.

Now as the U.S. finds its footing again -- the ISM manufacturing index is above 61%, suggesting a stronger expansion mode -- it can add to the strength that steel has found internationally. According to the World Steel Association, global crude steel production hit a record 1,414 million metric tons last year, 15% higher than the year-ago period. Moreover, January production was up an additional 5% from 2010.

Big steel producers like Arcelor Mittal, U.S. Steel (NYSE: X), and AK Steel should benefit from the recovery. Yet there will be speed bumps, such as the hiccup that's going to occur with carmakers as a result of Japan's earthquake disaster. Toyota (NYSE: TM), for example, is shutting down European operations for more than a week and warned U.S. car dealers to expect shortages of inventory.

With AK Steel's stock trading more than 30% below its 52-week high, some investors see opportunity to get in at a cheap price and profit when it rebounds. Billionaire hedge fund operator Steven Cohen is one, and he just revealed a 4.8% stake in the steel producer. CAPS member MajorBob04 is another, though at presumably a smaller level than Cohen. He says that the Japan disaster is actually one catalyst for AK's growth: "Rebuilding Japan will take a lot of steel . . ."

Let us know on the AK Steel CAPS page whether you need nerves of steel to invest here.

Going to the well again
The market seems more agreeable to PPL buying a second round of assets from German utility operator E.ON than it was last year after the first purchase. In 2010, PPL paid $6.7 billion for two U.S. utilities, and now it's ponying up $6 billion more for a stake in E.ON's U.K. grid.

PPL shares sunk sharply after the first deal was announced, and only by fits and starts -- and suffering through dilution and a lackluster earnings performance -- has it managed to recoup its losses. It seems that will be a similar pattern here -- dilution, anyway, as it issues 80 million shares to help pay for the purchase.

Utility mergers may become more popular, as witnessed by Duke Energy's bid for Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), though as the Fool's David Lee Smith points out, their success has been a hit-or-miss proposition. CAPS member mdriver78, though, thinks PPL's will be a miss.

This much dilution is alarming, especially since the announcement has mention of prospects for earnings contributions.

Add PPL to the Fool's free portfolio tracker and see if adding more assets to its portfolio will help the utility's stock heat up.

A sticky wicket
The networking equipment market has been buffeted by a lot of ill winds, but Cisco's (Nasdaq: CSCO) decision to essentially restructure its consumer division out of existence and focus on its core of advanced networking gear suggests that the market is mispricing many of the players. Cisco is down 13% in 2011, Finisar is 19% lower, and Tellabs is off 25%.

Tellabs's rival Adtran beat Wall Street's forecast yesterday on the strength of broadband access revenue growth, and last month Ciena also topped expectations, though current quarter guidance pushed the stock down. With Tellabs due to report earnings by the end of the month, we could see a similar pattern emerge that acknowledges we're moving into a period of weakness, but at an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of just 3, Tellabs is a stock that's too cheap to ignore.

CAPS All-Star member GundersonGroup makes the case that Tellabs weakness is not of its own making:

Trading near book value. The India orders that are on hold are most likely politically driven due to the mess that is India's wireless infrastructure and not vendor specific.

Network with other investors on Tellabs CAPS page and monitor its earnings by adding it to your watchlist.

A great opportunity for you
Investor sentiment suggests these four-star investments still seem to be on their way to five-star greatness, but it pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made all from a stock's CAPS page.

Sign up today for the completely free service and let us hear what you have to say about the great and almost great companies that interest you.

The Fool has created a bull call spread position on Cisco. Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. 

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Cisco but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his portfolio here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.