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Pats' undrafted rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins a breakout candidate?

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Expected to play important roles for the Patriots as rookies, draft picks Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce have already earned plenty of "sleeper" attention from fantasy football enthusiasts.

It was undrafted wideout Kenbrell Thompkins, however, who stole the show in Friday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The former Cincinnati Bearcat has earned rave reviews for his performance in training camp and caught four passes from Tom Brady on the Patriots' second drive.

Though his receptions only resulted in 23 total yards, it was the variety of routes Thompkins ran - and the quick, soft hands he showed - that could hint at the important role he'll play for the perennial Super Bowl contenders.

Thompkins' first catch came on a comeback in which Brady's pass was on him immediately. Thompkins secured the ball quickly and held on, taking a pop from Eagles' starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher. He also was used across the middle, absorbing a shot from linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

With the Patriots attempting to replace the production lost from Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead in 2013, Thompkins could be in position for a lot of targets.

The 6-0, 195-pounder was a highly regarded junior college prospect in 2010 and originally planned to sign with Lane Kiffin at the University of Tennessee. When Kiffin left the Volunteers for Southern California, however, Thompkins signed with Cincinnati, where he caught 78 passes for 1,078 yards and four scores as a junior. With the Bearcats' offense focusing on the run in 2012, Thompkins' numbers tumbled (34-541-2). He also comes with significant off-field baggage. Thompkins, 25, has reportedly been arrested seven times prior to his 20th birthday.

The fallout of the Hernandez situation makes Thompkins' checkered past an interesting story from a human interest perspective. If he can continue to earn Brady's trust in New England's dynamic offense, Thompkins could emerge as a legitimately relevant NFL (and perhaps fantasy) player, as well.

Check out the Rookie Report archives here.

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