Look, Tom Brady has to throw someone the football this year, right?
There hasn’t been a more talked about team this offseason than the New England Patriots. Brady has lost four or five of his top targets from a season ago (depending on the status of Rob Gronkowski), and outside of Danny Amendola, there are no legitimate fantasy wideouts in this offense. Or are there?
Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins has been turning heads during camp this summer, arguably making a name for himself as one of the most impressive players at practice. With the current state of the Patriots receiving corp, this team could use the emergence of a young wideout, but will Thompkins be solid enough to be viable of a late round flier in fantasy drafts? Why not? That’s what the whole point of a flier is. Take a high upside guy (usually unproven) with some obvious risk. If he does beat out fellow rookie Aaron Dobson for that number two job opposite of Amendola, he’ll obviously be fantasy relevant in 2013. The team did just release Michael Jenkins, so perhaps that is a sign that the Patriots are ready to go with the young guns. There is clearly some upside here. A 6’1″ guy with very strong speed, Thompkins has the ability to be that number two guy in New England. He sure looked good during the team’s first preseason game. On Brady’s first seven throws, the rookie was targeted four times, finishing with four catches for 23 yards. No, nothing mind-blowing, but the fact that he continued to impress after already standing out during camp is something to keep tabs on. Developing chemistry already with one of the greatest signal callers to every play the game is very crucial to fantasy success, and it appears Thompkins has been wasting no time. However, as promising as Thompkins appears to be, there is still clearly some risk, especially in New England.
It’s very rare to find a rookie receiver flourish into a fantasy stud in New England. The system isn’t exactly the easiest to understand, as we have seen veteran such as Chad Johnson and Brandon Lloyd struggle during there times in Foxboro. Just to remind fantasy owners that this is a buyer beware situation, let’s take a look at some of the Patriots’ rookie wide receivers over the years, and how irrelevant they were in fantasy land.
Brady has never had a rookie wide receiver emerge alongside him, as Branch’s less than pedestrian rookie campaign was the best he’s ever had. With that being said, history states that neither Dobson or Thompkins will be very fantasy viable this season. However, every player is obviously different, and the fact that Thompkins is already building a rapport with Brady is definitely encouraging. Despite the loss of weapons in the passing game, the Patriots will continue to use an aggressive passing attack, which we saw during the first preseason game against the Eagles.
Obviously, towards the end of all drafts, owners want to take a chance on that shiny new toy, rather than the old veteran who you know what you are getting from. Thompkins is definitely one of those high upside guys who I certainly can’t argue against picking late, along with guys like Ryan Broyles, Robert Woods, Chris Givens, etc. However, don’t be surprised if he gets sent back to the waiver wire a few weeks into the season.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.