Patriots’ WR Kenbrell Thompkins

Kenbrell Thompkins

Photo by Michael Dwyer

Kenbrell Thompkins might be the Tom Brady of wide receivers.

Is he the next Patriots player to come out of nowhere and have a Hall of Fame career seemingly on willpower alone?

Seemingly willpower until you realize that he’s immensely talented, but a confluence of events in his past kept him under the radar.

The NFL evaluates players from hundreds of angles and probably saw in Thompkins a kid who was arrested seven times before he was 18.

Perhaps this kept NFL teams from noticing who he became over the last four years since he left his childhood behind in “one of the worst neighborhoods” in Florida.

Yes, this is all pretty speculative. Kenbrell Thompkins is probably not the next Tom Brady. But there are shades of greatness here. In the last month or so we have seen quite a few little flashes that make you wonder.

They made me wonder so I dug deeper into Thompkins’s history.  The research was just as convincing as his play in the preseason.

I got tingly watching Kenbrell shirk NFL cornerbacks at the line like he’s been doing it for years. I try to temper my excitement, but I can’t.  We’ve never seen this before.

There are only two wide receivers (Gronk and Hernandez are excluded as they are TEs) drafted by the Patriots that made significant contributions during Brady’s tenure — Deion Branch and David Givens.

I don’t recall much excitement over Branch and Givens in their first training camps back in 2002. Both wide receivers had solid careers with the Patriots.

The pinnacle was Branch’s two epic Super Bowl performances in 2003 and 2004  – a combined 21 receptions, 276 yards, and 1 Super Bowl MVP. (Interestingly, Branch never had a 1,000 yard plus season in his career).

So, Thompkins is breaking the mold thus far.  He’s a rookie WR, albeit an undrafted one, and he has seemingly instant chemistry with Brady. Why shouldn’t we be wetting our pants (in a good way) at this point?

The weaknesses section of Thompkins’ draft profile at National Football Post reads:

“For a receiver with good playing strength and athleticism, it is surprising how he struggles fighting through a cornerback’s jam to release quickly vs press coverage.”

Compare that line with these highlights from the preseason and you see that Thompkins has a knack for addressing weaknesses.

Check out this excerpt from an April 2011 article on Thompkins level of commitment:

 “On a wall in the Bob Goin team meeting room last year the name of each University of Cincinnati football player was listed under various categories to reflect his level of commitment to the program.

At the top of that list, week after week, was wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, which was noteworthy considering that he was ineligible to play last year.

“Even though he wasn’t playing, he was still one of our leaders,” said UC coach Butch Jones.”

How can you not love the sound of that?  Talent and leadership. If you’ve ever spent anytime around a football team, you know how difficult it is for a player to lead when he’s not on the field come gameday.

I’m not sure how much weight to give Thompkins’ answers in this short clip from the combine, but he convincingly says what you want to hear from a rookie. “I belong here”, said Thompkins. So far, that appears to be an understatement.

More Kenbrell Thompkins highlights from his freshman year at El Camino College. 

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William W Barnes

Creating and evangelizing world-changing products. I like Lions and Cows.
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