The New England Patriots need a wide receiver not named Julian Edelman to step up and embrace a larger role in 2014. He may not be the first to come to mind, but Kenbrell Thompkins is primed for a break out year after another stellar offseason.
For the second year in a row, Thompkins has been a standout performer during offseason workouts and practices. Although that progress didn’t really translate to the field last season—Thompkins had mediocre production in 2013 with 32 receptions for 466 yards and four touchdowns—another solid spring and summer will help him to reach the next level.
Thompkins has been thriving in minicamp, nabbing end zone fade passes and having success against Brandon Browner in one-on-one matchups. Although these are pad-less affairs, it’s encouraging to see the sophomore having success against the Patriots’ suddenly excellent secondary. This could very well be a preview of things to come in 2014.
While Thompkins struggled at points in 2013, it was clear that Tom Brady trusted him in big situations—the last-second win over the New Orleans Saints is a good example of this chemistry. Expect Brady to look for Thompkins a lot more this season, as defenses will be focused on stopping Edelman, Brandon LaFell, and of course Rob Gronkowski.
With more passes coming his way, Thompkins will have the chance to see the fruits of his offseason labor. He is reminiscent of a former favorite target of Brady—the legendary Troy Brown. Like Brown, Thompkins has a tendency to be where Brady expects him to be. As long as he keeps that up, Thompkins should have at least 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. With numbers like that, Thompkins will make a name for himself in the NFL.