FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are some first impressions of the New England Patriots' rookie class after five spring practices:
CB Cyrus Jones (second round, 60th overall): He should compete for immediate snaps in the slot and will be a strong consideration to take over punt-return duties (and possibly kickoff returns). Some viewed him as the best returner in the draft.
G/C Joe Thuney (third round, 78th overall): Thuney was at left guard with the top unit at the start of spring practices, which had me thinking, “Could this be another Logan Mankins situation, in which he’s plugged in from day one, and the spot isn’t a concern for the foreseeable future?” While the Patriots didn't appear to have a major need at guard, Thuney might represent the team's safest pick overall.
QB Jacoby Brissett (third round, 91st overall): His physical makeup stands out (6-foot-4, 235 pounds), and he displayed a nice touch at times (e.g. a high-arcing TD pass to Malcolm Mitchell, who made one-handed grab). There were varied opinions on Brissett among NFL scouts and personnel executives, and one can always tell more against a live pass rush, but he seemed to have a nice start.
DT Vincent Valentine (third round, 96th overall): Valentine is a monster of a man at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds. There aren’t many with his body type in the draft each year. We’ll learn more when the pads come on, as his 2015-16 college tape wasn’t great, but the physical traits are easy to see.
WR Malcolm Mitchell (fourth round, 112th overall): His one-handed catch for a touchdown was one of the best plays of spring practice. Early indications are that he’s handling the transition to a challenging offense well, but there’s still a long way to go.
S/LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (sixth round, 208th overall): At one point in practice, he aligned as a gunner on the punt-coverage team opposite Matthew Slater, and the two shared a high-five after executing their assignment. He also showed up with an interception and pass breakup in one practice as his pursuit stands out.
LB Elandon Roberts (sixth round, 214th overall): He looks like a quarterback-of-the-defense type, with Patriots coach Bill Belichick spending time with him in one practice as he led the scout team. Belichick has called him an instinctive player, which is the type of thing that will be easier to see in full-pads practices.
G/C Ted Karras (sixth round, 221st overall): Mostly at right guard playing next to tackle Cameron Fleming, Karras has also taken a few snaps at center. His forte is toughness, which we haven’t had a chance to truly see because practices haven't been in pads.
WR Devin Lucien (seventh round, 225th overall): He’s usually one of the last players off the practice field, joining his longtime friend Chris Harper and first-year receiver DeAndre Carter. It’s a crowded position, so a spot on the practice squad might be the strongest likelihood in the big picture.
ROOKIE FREE AGENTS: Cornerback Jonathan Jones had two pass breakups Monday and has at times shown reactive athleticism to mirror receivers. ... Cornerback V'Angelo Bentley has seemed to be more active in the return game than on defense. ... Cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc, like Jones, has had his moments in coverage. ... Tight ends Steven Scheu and Bryce Williams have caught the ball competitively. ... Linebacker C.J. Johnson missed a few practices, presumably because of an undisclosed ailment. ... Defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton was involved in a dust-up with center Bryan Stork, who delivered a few punches. ... Running back D.J. Foster has shown quickness and added punt return work to his responsibilities, but a hamstring tweak kept him off the field earlier this week.