Fantasy value of Pats' rookie WRs

Which rookie pass-catchers stand out for New England and their fantasy value

Updated: August 27, 2013, 11:23 AM ET
By Field Yates | ESPN Insider

Kenbrell ThompkinsAP Photo/Rick OsentoskiKenbrell Thompkins has made the most of his opportunity in New England so far.

If you follow the NFL closely, you've heard this story before.

But it bears repeating.

Tom Brady threw 230 completions to wide receivers -- just a little more than 57 percent of his 402 in total -- in the 2012 regular season. Just 21 -- roughly 9 percent -- were caught by players still on the New England Patriots' roster.

And that doesn't count the 51 catches for Aaron Hernandez (released), 40 for Danny Woodhead (now a Charger) and 55 for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who remains sidelined as he recovers from a June back procedure.

So, as the Patriots get ready to take the field against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8, it's likely that Brady will be without his top five pass-catchers from last season, a year in which the Patriots topped the league in scoring offense.

But the sense of panic that once emanated from New Englanders concerning the inexperienced pass-catching group has faded away, with a new cast of pass-catchers surfacing for the Patriots and infusing optimism and hope.

Danny Amendola, formerly a Ram, projects to be the top receiver in this offense, and Gronkowski will play a featured role upon his return. Julian Edelman, who owns those 21 catches from 2012, fits into the equation, as well.

But let's not focus on the veterans.

The rage in New England is all about four rookies, two of whom weren't even drafted.

At receiver, three names have emerged: second-round pick Aaron Dobson, fourth-rounder Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins, who cost the Patriots all of $5,000 in guaranteed money to sign to their roster as an undrafted free agent.

Tight end Zach Sudfeld, whose 6-foot-7, 260-pound frame makes him hard to miss, is already being called "Studfeld" by some of his own teammates. Despite a productive career as a favorite target of Colin Kaepernick's at Nevada, he also wasn't drafted (injuries and age played a big part in this).

Before sizing up their fantasy value, let's start with a player evaluation for each, in order of where they were drafted.

Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.