Patriots' Kenbrell Thompkins could be fantasy draft gold
New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was one of those players early in camp. Thompkins began by earning a few first-team reps. He then drew reviews from beat writers saying he was "catching everything thrown his way," and two days later ESPN Boston said he was "arguably the best player on the field." Despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews, that was still during the first week of training camp. An undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati, Thompkins' chances of keeping his fiery pace seemed slim, but the rookie has yet to slow down.
It was reported on August 7 that Thompkins was showing great chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady, and that they were "consistently on the same page." Thompkins showed a great understanding of the Patriots' complex option routes which are a staple in their offensive scheme. Earning Brady's trust is the most important goal for a Patriots receiver, and Thompkins seems to be trusted by Brady.
Thompkins then played in his first NFL exhibition game, catching four of his five targets for 23 yards while lining up at three different receiver positions. The performance has the Boston Globe expecting the 25-year-old to be "featured more and more" as the regular season grows closer.
As of Wednesday, Thompkins is still getting the majority of first-team reps and appears to be penciled in for the starting "X" receiver job opposite Danny Amendola. Beat writer Mike Reiss has praised Thompkins for his "consistency... throughout camp," which makes it seem as if Thompkins is not just another one of those fluky camp performers - he just might be the real deal.
If he wins the starting job, Thompkins would essentially be taking the role of the departed Brandon Lloyd in the offense this season. Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards in 2012, though it is hard to gauge what that means for Thompkins, as Lloyd was an ultra-talented player on the field, but an alleged head case off the field and in the locker room.
Regardless, being one of Tom Brady's primary receiving options means you're going to get your chances to make plays. If Thompkins can hold on to the starting gig and keep up his impressive play, he has a real shot at making a strong impact on one of the league's premier offenses.
Fantasy owners should take note, as Thompkins' current average draft position (according to Yahoo) is 128.5 and he's only being drafted in 2% of leagues. He's being drafted behind several kickers, and even has a lower ADP than Lloyd, who isn't even on a team. His ADP is sure to rise as the season grows closer and fans begin to learn his name, but grabbing a starting wide receiver for the New England Patriots in the double-digit rounds could prove to be one of the wisest moves in fantasy drafts this year.
That being said, I feel obligated to go over the risks as well. There is a possibility that Thompkins could struggle to adapt to the full speed of regular season NFL football. One regular season misstep could land him behind other receivers in the rotation. In addition, he has another sensational talent behind him in 2013 second-round pick Aaron Dobson. If Dobson takes his game to another level, he could begin eating into Thompkins' targets.
The risks make Thompkins a reach during single-digit rounds, but his fantasy upside can not be ignored and he is well worth a flier in the later rounds. You could end up having the steal of the draft if you grab Thompkins at the right time, and depending on how knowledgeable your league-mates are, he could end up plummeting to the bottom of your draft.