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Kenbrell Thompkins: Why Fantasy Owners Shouldn't Give Up on Patriots Rookie WR

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 29: Kenbrell Thompkins #85 of the New England Patriots is tackled after catching a pass in front of Corey Webster #23 of the New York Giants in the first quarter during the preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 29, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Gary DavenportNFL AnalystSeptember 11, 2013

New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was a preseason Cinderella story. After a big showing in New England's third preseason game, many fantasy owners scrambled to add the undrafted free agent to their rosters.

Now, after struggling in his first NFL start, more than a few of those fantasy owners are ready to cut bait.

Ah, the joys of early-season overreactions in fantasy football.

Granted, things didn't go so well for Thompkins in his NFL debut, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe explains.

Kenbrell Thompkins was pretty awful in several areas, showing very little awareness. In addition to catching only 4 of 14 passes thrown his way, double-clutching his catches, and slipping and falling on multiple occasions, he twice wasn’t able to tap his foot down for a catch — once along the sideline, once in the back of the end zone.

Thompkins made a sliding catch on a slant pass down at the 2-yard line, but he would have had a touchdown if he had just stayed on his feet. And he ran the wrong route on the goal line in the fourth quarter, running right into Edelman and forcing Brady to take a sack on third down.

As Nick Underhill of MassLive.com reports, even Thompkins admitted that his first NFL game could have gone better. "Got some things to clean up and everything like that, but notice I managed to play the whole game," Thompkins said. "We'll watch film and correct the mistakes that were made."

Apparently there are many fantasy owners who aren't bullish about Thompkins' chances of righting the ship. In fact, Thompkins is the second-most dropped player in ESPN fantasy leagues over the past week.

This is the sort of knee-jerk drop that fantasy owners come to regret.

Yes, Thompkins didn't play especially well against the Buffalo Bills. So what? A rookie struggled in his first game in the National Football League. Oh my goodness. Stop the presses.

Also, Thompkins' stat line wasn't great, but it wasn't exactly terrible. Thompkins reeled in four catches for 42 yards against the Bills.

That's the same number of catches and more yardage than Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys had in Week 1. It's also the same number of catches and more yardage than Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions had in Week 1.

I'm not comparing Thompkins to those superstars. However, I am saying that every wide receiver, no matter how dominant, has bad games from time to time.

Most importantly, while Pro Football Focus (subscription required) only credited Thompkins with 13 targets, that was second on the team, trailing only Danny Amendola.

As things stand right now, quarterback Tom Brady doesn't have much choice but to continue targeting the youngster. Running back Shane Vereen is out until at least Week 11 with a broken wrist. Tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn't taken the field this year after having offseason back surgery.

ESPN reports that Amendola is "almost certain" to miss Week 2 with a groin injury. Albert Breer of NFL.com cautions that Amendola could be out even longer than that. Rookie wideout Aaron Dobson and first-year tight end Zach Sudfeld are nursing injuries as well.

In other words, Thompkins is going to be targeted heavily regardless of his Week 1 struggles.

Right now the Patriots don't have much choice.

Mind you, this isn't to say that Thompkins is a must-start in Week 2. He'll likely draw New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Thursday night, making Thompkins a boom/bust pick as a third wideout this week.

However, just because Thompkins struggled in Week 1 doesn't mean his talent magically evaporated. If anything, an already favorable fantasy situation for Thompkins has only improved with the attrition that has befallen the Patriots' offense.

If you can afford to, hold on to Thompkins for the the time being in the hopes that he turns things around. It's not like there was a home run waiver add this week anyway.

In fact, if you play in a league where a panicky owner cut Thompkins loose, consider picking him up.

After all, the upside to knee-jerk player drops is that they make life easier for fantasy owners who are willing to exercise a little patience.

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