Dark Phoenix: Preseason Week 2
By Cecil Lammey
August 24th, 2012

Welcome to the second 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.

T.J. Graham, WR4 Buffalo Bills

5'11" 188 lbs. North Carolina State 3rd round pick (2012) 69 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Minnesota
0
0
0
2
69
0

Graham has incredible speed and was clocked at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at NC State. He was more of a track star than a football star in high school and used that speed to produce big numbers as a Wide Receiver and Kick/Punt Returner. Graham finished his college career as the ACC's all-time kickoff return leader. I watched Graham at the Senior Bowl earlier this year in Mobile, Alabama and he impressed me with his speed, quickness, and concentration.

He's a quick twitch athlete who is difficult to bring down in the open field. I like his explosion in and out of his breaks and he does a good job getting separation in his routes. Graham also showed good concentration when running routes over the middle. He's more than just a track guy playing football. Graham has natural hands and does look in passes and catch them with arms extended away from his body. Against off coverage he does a good job of exploding off the line of scrimmage. However, against physical press/man or press/bail coverage he struggles because of a lack of size. It's his small frame that will keep him limited to just being a slot WR at the pro level.

The Bills are looking for receiving weapons behind Stevie Johnson and Graham is arguably the most explosive player out of that group. He's currently WR4 behind Johnson, Donald Jones and David Nelson. Graham needs to develop as a better route runner but could quickly ascend on the depth chart because of that incredible speed and big play ability.

Damien Berry, RB3 Baltimore Ravens

5'10" 223 lbs. University of Miami Undrafted Free Agent (2011)

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Detroit
3
13
0
6
59
0

Damien Berry was a do everything athlete for the Hurricanes in college. Early in his career he played on special teams and even played at Safety late in the year. When he got a chance to run the football Berry impressed with his speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field. I saw Berry at the 2011 Shrine Game in Orlando, FL and was impressed by his natural instincts and feel for running the football.

Berry's game was originally built on speed and quickness through the hole. He's put on some weight in the last two years and now weighs about 20 pounds more than he did in college. This added muscle allows him to be a more effective between the tackles runner. I like his vision to find cutback lanes and his footwork to get there quickly. Even though he's fast Berry doesn't have to gather himself (and slow down) to change direction. I like his patience as a runner as he gives his blockers enough time to get out in front of him. Berry is also a capable receiver out of the backfield. Durability was a concern for him coming out of college, but the added muscle could help him take the NFL punishment.

The Ravens are trying to find the primary backup behind Ray Rice. Berry is in the mix with guys like rookie Bernard Pierce and second-year pro Anthony Allen. He's not as powerful as Pierce as a between the tackles runner but provides a more versatile skill set because of his ability as a receiver. Berry is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on in deep dynasty leagues.

Cole Beasley, WR4 Dallas Cowboys

5'8" 177 lbs. SMU Undrafted Free Agent (2012)

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs San Diego
0
0
0
7
104
0

Beasley was a QB/RB in high school and chose SMU over an offer from Air Force. SMU has put some talented receivers in the NFL over the past few years (Emmanuel Sanders, Aldrick Robinson) and Beasley is hoping to make an impact as a slot WR for his home state Dallas Cowboys.

Beasley is very quick in and out of his breaks and knows how to find the soft spot in a zone. He's very fast running drag routes across the field and his strong hands make him a Quarterback's best friend. Beasley has good sideline awareness and body control when running outside routes. He is also sneaky enough to run seam routes and get open behind the defense. His size and durability are a concern and he's not strong enough to run through arm tackles.

The Cowboys need to replace Laurent Robinson who left in free agency to the Jaguars. Finding a WR3 behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant has not been easy. Beasley is competing with guys like Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, and Danny Coale. He left Cowboys training camp earlier this year for personal reasons, but returned after two days gone. The team is excited about his prospects and currently he's getting a lot of work with the first-team offense. With the injury history of Austin and Bryant a guy like Beasley could get more targets than people think.

Honorable Mentions

Evan Rodriguez, TE2 Chicago Bears
6'2" 239 lbs. Temple 4th round pick (2012) 111 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Washington
0
0
0
3
49
0

Rodriguez is going to draw comparisons to Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez because of his WR-like route running and speed. I was impressed by him at the Shrine Game earlier this year and feel he has the athleticism and natural hands to develop into an impact player.

Aldrick Robinson, WR6 Washington Redskins
5'10" 181 lbs. SMU 6th round pick (2011) 178 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Chicago
0
0
0
6
104
1

Robinson is a quick twitch player who can break ankles in the open field. He's buried on the Redskins depth chart right now but could work his way up with more games like this. I like his ability to help as a return man.

Griff Whalen, WR6 Indianapolis Colts
5'11" 185 lbs. Stanford Undrafted Free Agent (2012)

Rush / Rec Stats
Rush
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Vs Pittsburgh
0
0
0
4
59
1

Whalen is a technician with good hands and concentration. He lacks elite tools but has chemistry with QB Andrew Luck from their days together in college.

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