Dark Phoenix: Preseason Week 1
By Cecil Lammey
August 18th, 2012

Welcome to the first edition of The Dark Phoenix! Here we take a look at some deep sleepers that could someday make an impact in the NFL. The preseason is a time for unknown players to shine, and The Dark Phoenix is where we take a look at some potential diamonds in the rough.

Brock Osweiler, QB3 Denver Broncos

6'7" 240 lbs. Arizona State 2nd round pick (2012) 57 overall

QB Stats
Comp
Att
Yards
TDs
INTs
Rush
Yards
TDs
Vs Chicago
4
7
38
1
0
-
-
-

Brock Osweiler is the QB of the future for the Denver Broncos and will have to wait for a few years to take over. The one year starter at Arizona State lacks experience and formed some bad habits as a passer during his limited time in college. The Broncos have helped him develop better mechanics to now go along with his natural skill set.

He has a tremendously strong arm and can throw any pass required in the NFL. Osweiler didn't look polished on film at Arizona State but the Broncos have worked closely to insure he improves his skill set. His accuracy has improved because of the work done to his throwing mechanics and footwork. Osweiler is athletic enough to pull the ball down and run when a play breaks down, and keeps his eyes downfield while he runs.

The Broncos are moving forward with Peyton Manning for the next few years, but Osweiler is clearly the QB of the future. He has Ben Roethlisberger-like upside if he hits and plays up to his full potential. He's looked so good in camp he may win the QB2 job behind Manning at the start of the regular season.

Joique Bell, RB4 Detroit Lions

5'11" 220 lbs. Wayne State Undrafted Free Agent (2010)

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Cleveland
16
89
0
0
0
0

Bell was an impressive small school prospect at Wayne State. As a college senior he rushed for over 2,000 yards and won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best prospect in Division II football. I was able to watch him at the Senior Bowl and he impressed against better competition. I wouldn't say he was as impressive as Rashad Jennings was at the Senior Bowl, but it was clear that Bell had what it takes to stick at the pro level.

He's a big back who is a very natural and instinctive runner. I like the way he can run through arm tackles with ease, and maintains his balance after contact. Bell wins collisions and is the type of back who can grind down a defense. He's not the fastest player on the field but he does have good initial burst. This allows him to get to top speed in a hurry, and also allows him to change direction without losing much speed.

The Lions have arguably the most injury prone RB corps in the entire National Football League. Jahvid Best is very talented but may begin the season on the PUP list. Mikel Leshoure is suspended for the first two games of the year and is coming back from the Achilles' injury that cost him all of last season. Kevin Smith was impressive during a short time last year, until he was also hurt. Bell is fourth on the depth chart right now, but has the ability to be an effective starter if called upon. With the Lions high powered passing game Bell wouldn't see many stacked boxes at the line of scrimmage. He's worth picking up in deep leagues, or having on your waiver wire speed dial in smaller leagues. It may not take much for Bell to be very fantasy relevant in 2012.

Taylor Thompson, TE3 Tennessee Titans

6'6" 268 lbs. SMU 5th round pick (2012) 145 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Seattle
0
0
0
3
15
0

Thompson played exclusively as a defensive end in college at Southern Methodist University. He had a team high 7 sacks as a senior, but NFL teams had another position in mind for him at the pro level. Earlier this year at the Players All Star Classic scouts asked that he work out at the TE position even though he hadn't played the position since high school. I watched from the sidelines the week of practice at that game and came away impressed. Some Rob Gronkowski comparisons were thrown around that week as Thompson flashed good hands and raw athleticism.

He's a big target with long arms, large hands, and the concentration to look passes in regularly. Thompson has the speed to create mismatch problems and the ball tracking ability to attack the deep middle seam of the defense.

The Titans are extremely excited about Thompson's long-term prospects. He's very raw right now, but has the athleticism, speed, hands, and strength to be the next out of nowhere TE ala Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates.

Honorable Mentions

Tauren Poole, RB4 Carolina Panthers

5'10" 215 lbs. Tennessee Undrafted Free Agent (2012)

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Houston
4
26
1
0
0
0

I liked what I saw from Poole at the Shrine Game earlier this year. That week of practice he was easily more impressive than others there like Bobby Rainey (Ravens) or Davin Meggett (Texans). He's not the biggest back but runs between the tackles well and is a good receiver out of the backfield.

Lestar Jean, WR3 Houston Texans

6'3" 205 lbs. Florida Atlantic Undrafted Free Agent (2011)

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Carolina
0
0
0
2
50
0

Jean has the size, wingspan, and downfield speed to be a threat against one-on-one coverage. The Texans are looking for a better WR2 than Kevin Walter, and Jean may eventually develop into that guy.

Cyrus Gray, RB3 Kansas City Chiefs

5'10" 206 lbs. Texas A&M 6th round pick (2012) 182 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Arizona
15
65
1
0
0
0

Gray was a jack of all trades, but a master of none at Texas A&M. He's a smooth runner but at times he was too patient when waiting for holes to develop. The Chiefs have a nice backup if Gray can learn to be more decisive as a runner.

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