Every year, it seems that the New England Patriots have one or two rookie free agents that end up making the final 53 man roster. In 2013, it seems that the team has more rookies than every pushing for a roster spot. Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld, Cory Grissom, Joe Vellano, Brandon Ford, Justin Green and George Wynn have all made positive impressions. Mark Harrison has yet to see the field, but he is an intriguing prospect as well.
That being said, many of the rookie free agents are expected to make their debuts tonight. And for the second roundtable this week, we discussed which rookie free agent we were most excited about.
The Patriots have a few rookie free agents making a push for a roster spot this training camp. Who is one player you are looking forward to watching and why?
Alec Shane: The easy answers here would be Kenbrell Thomkins or Zach Sudfeld, as both seem to be turning a lot of heads in camp and could potentially vie for a starting job. But I’m going to go with Cory Grissom. At 6’2”, 310 pounds, he isn’t the biggest lineman out there (he only put up 24 reps on the bench press at his pro day), but he’s a high motor player that eats up a lot of space and plays with surprising quickness for his size. A broken ankle last year hurt his draft stock, as pundits had him going as high as the late fourth/early fifth before his injury, and so the Pats could have gotten some real value that can spell Big Vince, who isn’t getting any younger. Grissom is sure to see a lot of time on Friday, and I for one hope he impresses.
Adam Fox: I'll stick with the easy one - Zach Sudfeld. As rumors circulate about Rob Gronkowski starting the season on the PUP (and missing the league-mandated six games), tight end is suddenly under a large magnifying glass. What was once New England's most lethal weapon is now virtually wiped clean following the offseason's cruel treatment to the position. The playbook that births record-setting offenses doesn't just disappear overnight even without Gronkowski, so it's up to Sudfeld to assume the mantle. The UDFA out of Nevada has been absolutely brilliant in training camp, and there's even been some speculation about Sudfeld assuming Aaron Hernandez' old H-back role if/when Gronkowski returns. Sudfeld has that uncommon blend of speed and athleticism that's sapped more than a few first-team reps from the likes of Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells. Sudfeld has been impressive, and the preseason represents an opportunity to prove he can duplicate his offseason against real competition.
Kevin O’Connor: I am most looking forward to watching rookie free agent wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. I personally don’t buy the hype that some of the local beat writers have been promoting. From my vantage point, Thompkins has had a relatively good camp but I’m not sold on it continuing versus actual opponents. I don’t think he is nearly as talented of a route-runner that Josh Boyce is, and he doesn’t have the physical talent of Aaron Dobson. All this talk about “KT” being a potential starter is premature. The knock on Boyce is his drops but out of the camps I have been to, KT has had just as many. And again, the knock on Dobson is his subpar route running, I don’t think Thompkins has been much better than him. Thompkins can move around the field, return kicks, and do a number of different things, but I think both Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson will prove to be more valuable than him throughout pre-season.
Greg Knopping: Well, I was going to try and be different and go the Cory Grissom route, but Alec beat me to the punch there. In all honesty, I’d be lying if I said I was most looking forward to seeing Grissom play. Because the truth is, I’m most excited to see Kenbrell Thompkins play (with Sudfeld just behind him). It’s saying a lot that in less than three weeks of training camp, a rookie free agent receiver can go from on the roster fringe, to be a virtual lock for the final roster. Thompkins has impressed coaches, players, and many media members. That being said, on paper, there isn’t anything that stands out in particular with him - yet he has found ways to separate and catch the football. I’m most intrigued to see if Thompkins can carry over the hype from the practice field to a game situation.