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When it comes to deciding about Tim Tebow, Patriots have to make value-based judgment

06.13.13 at 1:36 pm ET

Ultimately, despite the fact that they will both possibly be angling for the role of backup quarterback, Tim Tebow isn’t necessarily be competing against Ryan Mallett for a job. Instead, Tebow will be jockeying with several other players at the back end of the roster as the Patriots try and determine who could offer them the best value when it comes to a roster spot: Would carrying a third quarterback more important than having an extra defensive back, tight end or wide receiver?

While the process of making the final judgment is still months away — and keeping in mind more candidates could pop up between now and the start of camp — based on the recently concluded spring practices, here are five candidates who could ultimately be in Tebow’s way when it comes to finding a spot in Foxboro.

Tight end Zach Sudfeld: A rookie out of Nevada, he took advantage of the fact that Rob Gronkowski wasn’t on the field (and Aaron Hernandez was extremely limited) by utilizing the extra reps. The massive Sudfeld (6-foot-7, 255 pounds) had an excellent series of spring camps, showing good physicality as well as a nice pair of hands. While some of his status could be tied to whether or not Gronkowski starts the year on the physically unable to perform list — as well as whether or not he could offer any value on special teams — he certainly made a positive showing.

Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: Like Sudfeld, Thompkins was an undrafted free agent who had himself a good spring, looking fluid while working as part of the New England passing game, and also showing some special teams value by serving as a punt returner. A cousin of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, Thompkins doesn’t necessarily have elite size or speed, but certainly looked comfortable working as an intermediate option in the Patriots’ passing game. If he can continue to display ability on both levels, the Patriots will find a spot for him.

Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins: New England’s receiver position is in such a state of flux right now, but Hawkins has an under-the-radar quality that could ultimately land him a spot on the final 53. The 26-year-old (who had 47 catches with the Titans in 2011) caught almost everything that was thrown his way over the course of the spring sessions. Like Thompkins, he could certainly take a spot at the back end of the roster, particularly if rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce struggle in training camp.

Cornerback Stephon Morris: The Patriots were able to bring back all of their corners from last year, a group that finished the season on an up note — thanks in large part to the work of Aqib Talib. But with so many wide open offenses piling up the passing yards, you could always use an extra corner, and Morris could fill the bill. In fact, if Morris (who was coached by former Patriots offensive coordinator Billy O’Brien at Penn State last year) is able to show special teams value, the 5-foot-8. 186-pound rookie could push veteran Marquice Cole for a job.

Defensive end Michael Buchanan: To this point in the offseason, the Patriots have not gone out and signed any veteran free-agent defensive ends (although John Abraham is technically still out there on the market), which could allow the seventh-rounder to sneak through a land a spot on the final 53. And while Buchanan appears to be a practice squad candidate at this point, he could force the hand of the coaching staff with a good training camp. (His future could also be tied to defensive end Jake Bequette, who is going into his second season with the Patriots after essentially taking a redshirt season as a rookie with 14 inactives. If New England feels Bequette is ready to assume a larger role, Buchanan could be bumped down the depth chart.)

Read More: Kenbrell Thompkins, Lavelle Hawkins, Michael Buchanan, Ryan Mallett



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