Kenbrell Thompkins: The New Deion Branch?—Or The New Ochocinco?
And it really matter for rookie undrafted free agents, guys like Zach Sudfeld and Kenbrell Thompkins. While the RotoViz guys have written a lot on Sudfeld, we haven’t written much about Thompkins, except to note that Thompkins is receiving snaps with the starters. I think we haven’t written more about Thompkins because, well, he didn’t give us much to say about him coming into the NFL. Whereas Sudfeld proved himself in college to be a beast in the red zone, Thompkins didn’t really prove himself to be anything except an old rookie on whom his coaches at Cincinnati refused to rely. In short, we haven’t said much up to this point because Thompkins really hadn’t given us anything to say.
(And in all fairness, I should note that while the stat geeks didn’t see Thompkins coming at least one tape grinder did. As I’ve said before, I think analytics will be at its best when the stat geeks and tape grinders supplement each other’s work.)
Now, after two preseason games, we have something to say about the rookie UDFA. Barring an unexpected late-preseason surge by Aaron Dobson (or Josh Boyce), Kenbrell Thompkins will be the Patriots’ starting #2 WR. While some people think of this as the starting X spot, I tend to think of this position differently, since the Patriots often move players around in highly inventive ways. When I think of Thompkins, I don’t see a guy playing the X (or split end) position. I see a guy who is reprising the role played by Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, and Brandon Lloyd the last few years—and perhaps even by Branch and Reche Caldwell before Randy Moss arrived in New England. In general, Thompkins isn’t the Patriots’ next X receiver. He’s their next Branch/Ochocinco/Lloyd (BOL) function. The question is this: Which guy is he? Deion Branch? (And which Deion Branch?) Or will he simply be another Chad Johnson?