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In the post-draft/undrafted free agency haze, the spotlight landed firmly on rookies Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and underdog T.J. Moe.
That initial excitement took a wicked punch in the mouth, as Dobson and Boyce dealt with physical hiccups all spring, while Moe tore his Achilles and cast a shadow on the hearts of countless fans who were pulling for him to make this team.
In the face of all this darkness, an unexpected stranger emerged from the shadows.
That stranger was Zach Sudfeld.
In New England's limited practices, Sudfeld has already astounded eyewitness with his fluid pass-catching skills, his reliable hands and his impressive footwork. ESPN Boston chose him as one of the top-six momentum-builders of the offseason.
Best of all, Sudfeld's a jovial character—which you can get a taste for in this interview.
He's the sort of player who becomes an instant fan-favorite. Everything about him is pointing in the right direction.
Except, of course, the multiple surgeries which compose his injury history.
His limited body of work from college is a major reason why he's been flying under the radar.
True, he's a tremendous talent and he's certainly the ideal character to compensate for Rob Gronkowski's potential/probable absence, but then again, we're talking about substituting one perennially-injured tight end with another perennially-injured tight end. This is dangerous business.
Still though, Sudfeld is too dynamic to ignore. He has the ability to impact this team in a profound way, especially if they're adopting a team-wide "underdog persona" this season.He could be a major part of that identity.
Positional conflict between Sudfeld and other tight ends, like fellow undrafted rookie Brandon Ford, will be something to monitor as camp unfolds.
The practice squad seems like a solid landing place for Sudfeld. Though, given this kid's heart, I wouldn't be surprised to see him rise through the food chain very quickly and eventually leave a dramatic imprint on the entire season.