Zach Sudfeld, Jamie Collins Among Top Rookie Performers at Patriots Training Camp

Zach SudfeldThe Patriots have an off day on Sunday after practicing three days in a row, which means there’s no better time to check up on how the Patriots’ top rookies have performed thus far.

Many of this year’s rookies are being thrown right into the fire. Plenty of wide receivers have been taking first-team reps and it appears to be paying off so far.

Patriots rookie wide receivers typically don’t contribute much. The last highly drafted receiver, Taylor Price, was essentially given a redshirt year in 2010, and only Deion Branch and Julian Edelman have caught more than 20 passes as a rookie in the Bill Belichick era.

But with Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch gone, someone’s going to have to step up in their stead. The Patriots’ draft class looks solid so far with a few stand outs.

Check out how the top rookies are doing below.

DRAFT PICKS

Jamie Collins, LB: Collins has already lined up all over the field, playing multiple linebacker positions and even on the outside, doing some edge work. Collins looks primed to have a role in nickel packages, covering tight ends and running backs. Collins has even spent some time covering the slot this summer.

Aaron Dobson, WR: The second-round wide receiver missed one practice, but has otherwise been impressive. He’s adept at going up over defenders to grab the ball. He’ll be best utilized as a down-field weapon. Dobson is going to have to fight it out with Kenbrell Thompkins for a starting role.

Logan Ryan, CB: As the book was written on him before the draft, Ryan appears to be at his best when he’s playing in the shallow portion of the field. He’s been beat deep a few times during camp. Like Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, Ryan will likely be at his best when the Patriots are playing zone. Ras-I Dowling‘s injury has forced Ryan into playing more reps, which will be good experience for the Rutgers product.

Duron Harmon, S: Harmon has seen some time with the first team at times during camp. It appears, so far, that he will be McCourty’s backup at free safety, covering the deep half of the field. Harmon had a solid practice on Saturday during the Patriots’ scrimmage, breaking up a few passes and pulling in an interception.

Josh Boyce, WR: Boyce has worked with the first team but is mostly in with the second team. He looks like he’ll have a future as either a slot or “Z” receiver due to his route running and quickness. He’s not at his best when he has to contend for a jump ball. Boyce was one of Tebow’s favorite targets during Saturday’s scrimmage.

Michael Buchanan, DE: Buchanan has been working at defensive end with the third team. He’s also in on special teams drills. The seventh-rounder has not stood out.

Steve Beauharnais, LB: Beauharnais is getting work at middle linebacker and in special teams. He’s showed flashes on defense, even picking off Tom Brady in one practice.

TOP UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS

Zach Sudfeld, TE: Chances are looking very good for Sudfeld to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. We haven’t seen much of him as a blocker, but he’s looking like he might be the best receiving tight end on the roster. He’s lined up at the slot and outside, as well as his normal inline position. He’s noticeably a step faster than the veteran tight ends on the roster.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR: Thompkins has been the best rookie wideout on the team.

George Winn, RB: Winn doesn’t have great straight-line speed, but always looks good in juke drills. He could be a practice squad candidate.

Quentin Sims, WR: Sims had the play of the day during Saturday’s scrimmage when he pulled down a Tim Tebow pass in the end zone. He could be a good candidate for the practice squad. He has impressive size and speed, but isn’t quite as polished as the other rookie wideouts.

Cory Grissom, DT: Grissom has been hurt throughout training camp. He’s just started strapping the pads back on to get on the field. The Patriots are shallow at defensive tackle, and Grissom showed the most promise in college out of the rookie interior defenders.

Joe Vellano, DT: Vellano was brutal in 1-on-1s during the first padded practice, but has showed some improvement recently. He’s undersized, but if he can get in the backfield during the preseason, there could be a role for him.

Justin Green, CB: Green has great speed, but lack of size and ball skills has him getting beat pretty often back deep. He’s worth keeping on the roster for now, though, and could be a practice squad candidate.

Ryan Allen, P: Allen is pushing Zoltan Mesko for the starting spot at punter. Allen was a two-time Ray Guy Award winner in college and has showed a big leg during camp. He’ll get his chances to stand out in preseason games.

Photo via Twitter/@PatriotsXLVIII

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.