New England Patriots UDFA wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is well on his way to locking up a roster spot, and the former Cincinnati Bearcats standout shows us why college production at the wide receiver position is often times meaningless, since a wide receiver can’t control things like quarterback play (Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce fall into this description, and I wonder if the Patriots played “moneyball” with his year’s draft class by finding undervalued receivers due to less college production).
Thompkins isn’t a lock to make the roster yet, because we’ll have to see how he does in game situations. But it is telling that he’s been even more impressive than Dobson and Boyce in training camp, because both of those two rookie receivers have also been playing well. Thompkins has the speed and ball skills to be a factor on the outside as a rookie, even if he is slotted in as the No. 5 receiver. The Patriots wide receivers are deeper and better than many think (mainly those who stick to the ESPN narratives), and their youth is yet another bonus.
ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss believes that Thompkins is going to make the roster, and basically everyone agrees on that point. I can’t see a situation in which Thompkins is cut, and it is telling that Reiss writes that Thompkins should be grouped with drafted receivers Dobson and Boyce. I completely agree with that, because he’s earned it with his play in camp. It is interesting to see that Reiss praised Thompkins footwork as a UDFA wideout, and it’s crazy to think that a receiver this polished went undrafted.
All the buzz around the league regarding Jake Ballard is directed towards the fact that he is not a lock to make the Patriots 53-man roster, and we’ve seen various notes and reports stating this. Ballard is still struggling with some knee soreness and has looked a bit slow, but that’s common in the recovery from microfracture surgery. It’s been about a year-and-a-half since Ballard suffered the injury, and it just shows how difficult it is to recover from. Unfortunately for Ballard, he was never the most athletic or agile tight end to begin with, so he could miss the Patriots roster if the injury impedes his progress enough.
While I also don’t view Ballard as a true lock to make the Patriots roster, I can’t see him getting cut if Rob Gronkowski hits the PUP list. If he doesn’t, I would still probably take Ballard over Daniel Fells, but that is an extremely close call. In the same piece, Mike Reiss writes that Jake Ballard “could have a tough time” making the roster with the emergence of Zach Sudfeld and the top-level, dependable blocking of Fells.