A lot can change between now and the end of training camp, but the under-the-radar Patriots offensive player who has arguably built more momentum than any other to this point is rookie free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. Friday's release of veteran receiver Donald Jones, who was due a $200,000 reporting bonus, was tied in part to Thompkins' strong work in the spring when he was taking first-team repetitions by the end of mandatory minicamp. Thompkins (6-0, 193) played at Cincinnati in 2011 and 2012, and had modest production (44 receptions in '11, then 34 in '12), which contributed to his going undrafted (the Patriots inked him to a free-agent deal with a $2,500 signing bonus and $2,500 of the base salary guaranteed).
He had initially signed with Tennessee in 2010, but left when coach Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal, and the NCAA ruled he had to sit out a year because of transfer rules. So Thompkins is a bit older than the standard rookie (he turns 25 on July 29). He also had a tougher upbringing and was arrested seven times between the ages of 15 and 18.
I spoke with one scout who felt those troubles were behind Thompkins. Still, from a football perspective, the scout didn't see much "wow" factor; Thompkins isn't particularly fast (4.54 in the 40) and there weren't necessarily any intangibles that stood out to the scout. But a strong performance at the Texas vs. Nation game, coupled with some things clicking for him in the spring with the Patriots, has him in position to be a sleeper to watch in training camp.
There is definitely opportunity in the Patriots' WR corps, so Thompkins (along with rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce and veteran Julian Edelman) are players to monitor this summer.