Pay attention fantasy football fans because it's a new world for the New England Patriots and their receivers this season. A whirlwind offseason for the Patriots has seen the departure of trusted regulars Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, and a likely start on the PUP list for tight end Rob Gronkowski.
In fact, Tom Brady returns with just one wide receiver (Julian Edelman with 21 receptions) from the 2012 season. While Patriots fans and fantasy owners alike were quick to panic at the depletion in talent, it is important to remember that change brings opportunity.
Ever active in the draft and when it comes to identifying potential hidden gems, New England has brought in a handful of rookies that, with Brady at the helm, could be poised for surprise seasons and are worth a look in fantasy football leagues.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR: The undrafted rookie free agent has emerged as an early favorite target of Tom Brady as he enjoyed a breakout performance last Thursday against Detroit in the Patriots' third preseason game in which he was targeted 11 times. He finished the game with eight receptions for 116 yards. Thompkins has an excellent shot at securing a starting spot come Week 1 against Buffalo.
Aaron Dobson, WR: The second-round pick was expected to nab the No. 2 receiver spot; but a rather underwhelming preseason has caused him to slip down the depth chart. Brady appears growing more comfortable with the Marshall product each week and the durability concerns surrounding Danny Amendola, along with Dobson’s upside and play-making ability, could make him a factor earlier than expected.
Ranking on final Preseason Big Board: No. 231 (No. 74 WR)
Zach Sudfeld, TE: Another undrafted rookie, Sudfeld finished among the top 10 tight ends in the nation in receptions during his final season at Nevada and looks to be Tom Brady’s newest weapon at the position. His 6-7, 230-pound frame will make him a major red zone threat and he should see plenty of passes thrown his way while Gronkowski is out.
Ranking on final Preseason Big Board: No. 184 (No. 22 TE)