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The Dark Phoenix 2

Welcome to another edition of The Dark Phoenix. The 2nd full week of the preseason is in the books and we are going to take a look at some little known players that performed well. As you all know, The Dark Phoenix is where we examine players that rise from the ashes of obscurity and could make a difference for your fantasy team. Let's get right to it.


Arnaz Battle, WR1 (?) San Francisco 49ers
6'1" 217 lbs. - Notre Dame - 6th round pick (2003) 197 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Versus Denver
0
0
0
2
64
1

Arnaz Battle is a very fluid athlete. He was converted from a QB in his up and down career at Notre Dame. Injuries hampered his progress during his early years, but he was able to put together a solid senior season for the Golden Domers. In 2002 he led the team with 58 catches for 786 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Battle has a great work ethic and worked his way into more playing time by being a special teams standout. He sets up defenders well and uses his considerable size to shield opponents away from the ball. He comes back to the ball and understands the position from both sides. He knows how to best run a route because he understands what a QB needs to get him the football. He is a very determined player and is improving his ability to get off the line cleanly. Arnaz does not have deep speed, but can get separation and pick up yards after the catch.

New 49ers head coach Mike Nolan likes what he sees from Battle and is giving him a shot as the "Z" receiver. In this position Battle could very well be the leading receiver on a 49ers team that will need to throw the ball to stay in games. Battle is still learning the finer points of being a NFL WR, and can still be caught catching the ball with his body sometimes. The QB situation in San Francisco will bear watching and could affect Battle's production in 2005. In a dynasty league this guy is a lock for a roster spot and could pay off dividends in a big way. If you play in a re-draft league Battle would be worth considering as a WR5, especially in a PPR league.


Luke McCown, QB2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6'3" 212 lbs. - Louisiana Tech - 4th round pick (2004) 106 overall

Pass / Rush Stats
Att
Comp
Yards
TDs
INTs
Att
Yards
TDs
Versus Jacksonville
10
16
131
1
1
0
0
0

Luke McCown knows football. In his prep days back in Jacksonville Texas he was a superstar. His brother Randy was the starter for Texas A&M for 3 years, and of course his brother Josh is a backup with the Cardinals. Luke was a 4 year starter in the pass happy WAC. He certainly didn't disappoint in college throwing for over 12,000 yards and 88 touchdowns, breaking all of Tim Rattay's team records.

McCown is rather slender at 212 pounds, but can still stand in the pocket, deliver a strike, and take a beating. He has all the tools that one could ever want in a QB. He has good footwork, sets up nicely in the pocket, and is very poised. His accuracy has improved and he can throw well while on the run. He sometimes is a little too slow going through progressions and his throwing motion is somewhat erratic when winding up for the long throws.

In week 13 of 2004 McCown got his first start at the professional level. It just so happened to be against the New England Patriots. Most QBs are eaten alive by Belichick and his Venus fly trap like gameplan. Well, McCown stepped in and threw for 277 yards with 2 touchdowns. That's not too bad for the ole boy from Texas. He went on to start 3 more games against 3 tough defenses (Buf, SD, Mia).

The Buccaneers acquired the first year QB from the Browns in the offseason for a 6th round draft pick. I know the Browns have Charlie Frye, who looks to be a great QB, but they may regret letting McCown get away. Jon Gruden has been very pleased with McCown's progression in camp and Luke is currently beating out Chris Simms for the backup job to Brian Griese. McCown is a leader and is very strong willed. If there is an injury to Griese, Luke could step in and lead a team with some great offensive weapons. It looks as though the Buccaneers are grooming McCown to be their QB of the future. His dynasty value should be fairly high considering his college career, his skill set, and the young weapons (Cadillac, Clayton) that he'll benefit from playing with.


Kevin Curtis, WR3 St. Louis Rams
5'11" 189 lbs. - Utah State - 3rd round pick (2003) 74 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Versus San Diego
0
0
0
4
127
2

Starter his college career in 1996 at Snow Junior College before leaving on a religious mission. Walked on at Utah State and became one of college football's most prolific receivers his final 2 seasons. In his junior year he led the NCAA in receptions per game and caught 100 passes for 1,531 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. His senior campaign saw defenses key on him, but he still led the team in receiving with 74 receptions for 1,258 yards and 9 touchdowns. The Rams loved his run after the catch ability and ridiculous 40 time (4.3) and took him in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft.

Despite his size Kevin can get up with a good vertical leap. He runs sharp routes and looks the ball in and secures it consistently. He knows how to find the open spot in a defense and flattens out his routes nicely, giving his QB a nice target. He has quickness and is dangerous in the open field. His soft hands make him a natural playmaker and he routinely makes big catches. He is somewhat undersized and can sometimes get jammed up at the line of scrimmage.

Fantasy owners should take note of Curtis, who could replace the great Isaac Bruce, whenever Bruce decides to hang 'em up. When Bruce was banged up at the end of the 2004 season, it was Curtis who stepped up his game. He had two 100 yard games in the playoffs and proved that he is ready to take it to the next level. Kevin is already off to a great start in the 2005 preseason. Kevin Curtis may still be somewhat unknown, or on the waiver wire in your league. But with the way he's playing that won't last for very long.


David Tyree, WR4 New York Giants
6'0" 205 lbs. - Syracuse - 6th round pick (2003) 211 overall

Rush / Rec Stats
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Versus Carolina
0
0
0
2
113
1

Tyree was a 2 year starter at Syracuse who made his biggest impact on special teams. His senior season he was 2nd on the team with 36 receptions for 559 yards and 3 touchdowns. He displayed a big play ability and consistently improved his skills every year.

David is a big strong WR that can outmuscle smaller DBs for position. He is adept at using his size to give the QB a sizable target and shield defenders away from the ball. He has big, soft hands and extends his arms when catching, grasping the ball at its highest point. Tyree also has a good vertical leap and really goes up after the football. He doesn't have long speed and lacks elite explosion off the ball.

David continues to win accolades for his special teams play. In 2003 he was named Special Teams Rookie of the Year. As the Giants offense progresses under Eli Manning, and as Tyree continues to develop you might see him more involved in the game plan. He has shown the kind of consistency and playmaking ability that a team wants from their 4th or 5th receiver. In case of injury, there is no doubt that Tyree could come in and perform admirably.


Willie Parker, RB3 Pittsburgh Steelers
5'10" 209 lbs. - North Carolina - Undrafted Free Agent (2004)

Rush / Rec Stats
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
Versus Miami
6
58
0
1
20
0

Fast Willie Parker started just 2 of his final 20 games for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Much like Terrell Davis at Georgia, Willie felt he was under utilized during his college career. He was the 141st ranked high school RB when he entered North Carolina. He earned the starting job his freshmen year in spring practice, but his season was derailed by injuries. His sophomore year saw him start 3 games, and he had a very impressive performance against Auburn in the Peach Bowl, rushing for 131 yards on 19 carries. His junior and senior years saw very few starts and very little playing time for "Chill-Will".

Willie has phenomenal speed. He has a quick burst through the hole and is hard to line up to tackle because of his shiftiness. He's more than just a speed guy and is a willing inside runner that doesn't go down at initial contact. He is a very determined runner and can turn the smallest crease into a 20 yard gain. He can get to top speed in a hurry and really challenges the edges of a defense. His hands aren't too bad and he makes a great option on screen passes.

Parker has passed the oft-injured Verron Haynes on the depth chart and is primed to make a big impact for the Steelers. Many people want to compare him to former Steeler Amos Zereoue because of his size. That is a very poor choice of comparisons. Zereoue could be tackled way too easily and didn't have the moves that Parker has. Currently Duce Staley is injured (again) and many wonder if 22 can ever stay healthy for the Steelers. In Staley's absence Parker will team with Jerome Bettis to make a deadly 1-2 punch. Willie Parker is not your typical Steeler power back, but he may be a game-breaking feature back in the near future. As Matty Fitz says, "Nice pick Cowher."


Well, that'll do it for the 2nd preseason edition of The Dark Phoenix. Be sure to check in next week when we take another look at some deep sleepers.

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