New England Patriots undrafted free agent wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has been the most impressive wide receiver in training camp thus far, and it is clear that he is about to lock up at least the No. 5 WR gig. Michael Jenkins came into camp with veteran experience, past production, and, like Thompkins, good performances in OTAs and minicamp to boast of. However, Jenkins has struggled, while Thompkins has shined and created a huge gap between him and the rest of the competition. Kamar Aiken, not Jenkins, could very well be Thompkins’s biggest competition in making the roster, although Jenkins’s experience has to count for something. The only way I can see Jenkins or Aiken making the roster is if the Patriots keep seven wide receivers, or if Thompkins fizzles out. Both are possible, neither are likely, and the former scenario actually seems more plausible than the latter.
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin believes that Kenbrell Thompkins has also clearly established himself as the guy to beat for the No. 5 receiving job, and I completely agree with Volin’s assertions that the four guys ahead of him are locks. Julian Edelman and Josh Boyce are indeed locks in my view, even with Edelman’s history of injuries. He’s simply too cheap, too vested in this system and with Tom Brady, and too talented when healthy to cut.
Volin believes that Thompkins might be the fastest receiver on the Patriots, and that is an interesting statement. All three of the rookie wide receivers making noise are fast, and I actually thought coming into camp that Aaron Dobson was the fastest of them. That really hasn’t changed in my mind, but Thompkins is faster than I expected him to be. All three of the rookie wide receivers also have more talent than their college production insinuates, and that’s largely due to less-than-ideal surrounding scenarios (both Boyce and Thompkins had some awful quarterback play last season). As for the piece above by Volin, it is very detailed and well-worth reading, and it was interesting to see that Michael Jenkins is only due $550,000 next season.
New England Patriots tight end Zach Sudfeld isn’t just a super-sleeper; he’s a fully legitimate NFL tight end who was docked too far for injury concerns. Sudfeld has been the fastest tight end on the field for the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski out, and Sudfeld has shown great hands and excellent pass-catching ability. His memorable one-handed catch isn’t the only thing of note, as Sudfeld has consistently stretched the field and made big plays throughout camp. He’s also a better blocker than people give him credit for, and he was one of the best blockers at the position in all of college football.
ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss’s big takeway from Patriots training camp yesterday is the fact that Zach Sudfeld continues to have a big camp, and he also impressed during offseason workouts in OTAs and minicamp. Sudfeld has a chance at being a great two-way TE in this league, and I currently have him ahead of Jake Ballard due to Ballard’s injury issues. In all honesty, Sudfeld could be the guy who can replace some of Gronkowski’s lost production if Gronk does hit the PUP, and I think he and Michael Hoomananwanui are the two best TEs on the Patriots roster besides Gronk. I’m not sold on Ballard’s health and don’t view him as a lock on the roster, but I can’t undervalue him either if he does get fully healthy. If you think tight end is weakness for the Patriots, then you are in for a rude surprise, because this team is still four-deep at the position even with Gronk out. Hopefully, Ballard can be on the mend and form a top TE duo with either Sudfeld or Hooman (if Sudfeld fizzles out, which I definitely don’t anticipate happening).
What did Volin say about Sudfeld in the post above? He views Sudfeld as a lock, and that’s something I definitely agree with when factoring in Sudfeld’s hands, youth, athleticism, speed (even after injuries in college that caused him to go undrafted), and potential as a great blocker in this league.