Brady hasn’t had a wide receiver with Dobson’s skill set since another former Marshall wideout came to down, Randy Moss. That’s not to say Dobson has Moss’ talent, but they have similar size, limitations and strengths. Dobson’s received playing time with the first and second teams. When the Patriots split the team into blue and white uniforms, though, Dobson was wearing blue and playing with Ryan Mallett.
The player that was lined up at the “X” with Brady in that scrimmage was Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins can likely play all three receiver positions. He’s been in the slot, the “X” and the “Z” during Patriots training camp. He has the size (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) and speed (4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine) to play the “X,” the agility to play the slot (6.88-second three-cone time) and the route-running ability to play the “Z.” Thompkins has no problem gaining separation with his sharp cuts and quick feet in the middle of the field.
Boyce could probably play the “X” in a pinch, but is best served, like Amendola, in the slot or “Z.” He has consistent hands and can get open using his out-of-this-world agility (he ran the three cone at the combine in 6.68 seconds with a broken foot).
The non-Amendola starting WR position for the Patriots in 2013 is going to be the source of some value in fantasy leagues this year in the same way that the running back position was a source of value in 2012. But usually the difficult thing with the Patriots is trying to figure out which guy you want. At this point it looks like Aaron Dobson is being overdrafted in re-draft and dynasty leagues (and you can count this author in the group of overdrafters). If Thompkins is currently running with the 1s, that impacts the odds that Dobson starts this year and since Thompkins and Dobson are both rookies, it impacts the odds that Dobson ever starts for the Patriots.
I’m cognizant of the idea that we’re likely at information overload during the pre-season, but I think that one group of information that we shouldn’t overlook is the data we get as to who will start. Teams can say whatever they want to puff their players, and beat reporters will often pick up the company line. But teams have a more difficult time fudging things when it comes to who will start. They have to get in valuable practice reps and eventually their starting lineups will tell you what you want to know in terms of who to own. I don’t think that the depth chart on Aug. 7 is always going to be the depth chart on Sept. 1, but if you ignore the impact that practices have on probabilities, you’re only hurting yourself. In this case I’m adding the information about Thompkins running with the 1s to the prior information that we had on the issue so that when I have to make decisions related to these players, I can make them with the most up to date data.