FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With Julian Edelman coming off the physically unable to perform list and practicing for the first time on Thursday, it provided the first snapshot of what the team's receiver depth chart could look like on opening day.
We knew all along that the roster locks are Danny Amendola, second-round draft choice Aaron Dobson and fourth-round pick Josh Boyce.
Amendola is the top slot option, but also projects to play plenty on the outside in two-receiver sets. The smooth-striding Dobson, at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, is a top option on the perimeter, while Boyce (5-11, 205) looks like he has the flexibility and smarts to line up in any spot (similar to what made Jabar Gaffney an ideal No. 3-4 receiver, but faster).
Then there's rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins, who has been a revelation to this point, mostly lining up on the outside. He had the play of the day Thursday, splitting three defenders to haul in a long Tom Brady pass over the middle. If the first six practices of camp are any indication, he should be there on the final 53-man roster, possibly even finding a way into the team's three-receiver set.
Edelman, who has built a strong rapport with Brady and also is a top punt returner, would be a strong candidate for a fifth spot. Given all the turnover at the position, it's hard to imagine him going anywhere. Brady went out of his way to make sure he was throwing to Edelman at one point Thursday, as noted by eagle-eyed colleague Field Yates.
So if everyone's healthy, the receiver position would project to shake out this way: Amendola, Dobson, Boyce, Thompkins and Edelman.
Add in special-teamer Matthew Slater, who technically has the "WR" next to his name on the roster but is more of an emergency option than anything else, and the number spikes to six and probably ends there.
Veteran Michael Jenkins and third-year man Kamar Aiken continue to compete but might need an injury to break through. Meanwhile, the best chance for the remaining rookies to stick would be on the practice squad.
The Patriots entered training camp with a big question at receiver, in part because of the unknown of what they were getting with their rookies. But to this point, they've seemingly handled everything thrown at them, providing some more clarity as to how the receiving corps might ultimately take shape.
Add in Amendola and Edelman and the potential final snapshot came into sharper focus with Edelman's return to the practice field Thursday.