Kate Lemasters

Sophomores To Watch On The Patriots Roster

Apr 29, 2014 4:55 AM EST

Last year, The New England Patriots found themselves without Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez – all top pass catchers during the 2012 season. With Rob Gronkowski constantly on the mend, rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson had the weight of the world on their shoulders.

22-year-old WR Josh Boyce – drafted during the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft – had 121 yards last season. The most exciting action came for Boyce when the Patriots played the Cleveland Browns in January: he had 49 yards with three receptions, and the two kickoff returns he had resulted in 46 yards. The Patriots placed Boyce on injured reserved for his ankle on January 2, 2014.

Drafted as a free agent in 2013, 25-year-old rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins had a stellar season with 466 yards and four touchdowns. In a postseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, Thompkins left the game with a head injury in the second half and was still inactive to play during the AFC Championship Game vs. the Denver Broncos.

Picked up in the second round of the NFL Draft, 22-year-old WR Aaron Dobson made the sporting world take notice with 519 yards and 4 touchdowns. In November, while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dobson not only obtained two of his touchdowns, but had an 81-yard reception – his longest of the season. A foot injury put a damper on his playing time later in the season, but the year was impressive nonetheless.

While players need time to develop, Boyce, Thompkins and Dobson are all solid players that showed promise by making some spectacular plays last season. The impact of these second-year players will be highly beneficial in the 2014 season. They have all had a tremendous amount of pressure to perform placed on them, they have worked out the nervous jitters, and they will come back better than ever.