It's the calm before the storm: Mini camp is over for the New England Patriots, and training camp hasn't yet begun. What can be done to pass the hours without constant updates on the Patriots?
Well, the time has come to compare young New England draftees to current and former Pats.
The Patriots haven't practiced in full pads, which makes it hard to gauge a rookie's skill. But based on their college performances and the glimpses during OTAs, each prospect has a little resemblance to Patriots of the past or present.
Here are seven NFL player comparisons for the Patriots' 2012 draft class.
The New England Patriots' first-round draft pick Chandler Jones will cause some to reminisce about Willie McGinest—the franchise's top choice in the 1994 draft.
Jones is projected to be utilized in the "elephant" hybrid role made notable by his predecessor. And he provides the Patriots with a pass rusher for the future who hasn't scratched his ceiling.
Both men stand at 6'5" and roughly 265-270 pounds. However, the 22-year-old Jones has plenty of work ahead of him to be in consideration with the Patriots great.
What separates Jones from McGinest? Oh, just three Super Bowl rings and 86 career sacks.
Dont'a Hightower showcased his versatility at the University of Alabama, lining up as an inside and outside linebacker. His size and flexibility strike similar chords to Brandon Spikes, the Patriots' 2010 second-round pick.
Like Florida's Spikes, Hightower fits best as an inside backer, but can stretch out to the edge if needed.
NFL.com's draft experts had this to say about the Crimson Tide tackler:
If he can keep his weight steady and not lose any speed, Hightower can do many of the same things that Oakland's Rolando McClain or New England's Brandon Spikes did working as the physical inside presence of a defense.
Neither athlete is particularly spectacular in pass coverage. Although both players are strong against the run and are imposing figures at 6'2", Hightower is 15 pounds heavier.
It remains to be seen how he will make an impact in 2012, but he's NFL-ready and should compliment Spikes' game well.
The New England Patriots' second-round pick Tavon Wilson played all over the field at the University of Illinois: cornerback, nickelback and free safety.
He's not the first corner-safety to be drafted by the Pats out of Illinois, however. In 2003, New England chose Eugene Wilson, also in the second round.
Wilson went on to enjoy five seasons with the Patriots and started 55 games. If Tavon can follow in his fellow Illini's footsteps, then New England should be solid in the secondary for years to come.
Jake Bequette sacked the quarterback 17 times during his junior and senior seasons with the Arkansas Razorbacks. His ability to rush the passer and close down the rushing attack could be compared to ex-New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel.
Like Bequette, Vrabel was a defensive end in college. That being said, Vrabel migrated to outside linebacker in the NFL. Early indications are that Bequette could do the same.
"Bequette played both defensive end and outside linebacker during college and the Patriots’ use of multiple fronts means that he could do the same in the NFL," said NBC Sports' Josh Alper.
The 2012 third-round pick has a difference in frame, however. As a 6'5", 274-pound edge rusher, Bequette is an inch taller and over 10 pounds heavier than Vrabel was during his playing days.
He's not as athletic, which makes it unclear whether or not Bequette will be able to help out in pass coverage. So for the time being, he's an oversized Mike Vrabel who might find a home in the defensive line rotation.
Nate Ebner was a special teams ace at Ohio State, which is likely why the New England Patriots picked him in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. If he can make the Patriots' roster, he might become a folk hero along the lines of Larry Izzo.
Izzo was a three-time special teams Pro Bowler during his 13-year NFL career, and acted as the heart of the Patriots' special teams units from 2001 to 2008.
A former rugby player, Ebner used his grit to propel him up the Buckeyes' ranks. After walking on to the school's football team, he earned a job at backup safety. Yet working as a special teams gunner is where the 6'0", 205-pound athlete made his mark.
Obviously Ebner isn't built for the Izzo's linebacker position in the NFL. But, neither was the 5'10", 228-pound Izzo, for that matter.
A willingness to do the dirty work is an exceptional asset to have in a football player. At the end of the day, special teams is made for tough guys like Ebner and Izzo. Hopefully Ebner can fight his way onto the Patriots the same he way he did at Ohio State.
With stocky legs, short arms and innate skills, it's difficult to pinpoint a current or former Patriot who accurately reflects Dennard. Yet his size and abilities do resemble one familiar defensive back—Ellis Hobbs.
Hobbs was a Patriots third-round draft pick in 2005 and played four of his six NFL seasons in New England before retiring due to a neck injury in 2011. He was quick and talented, but will be remembered for allowing the New York Giants' Plaxico Burress to catch the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII.
Like the 5'9" Hobbs, Dennard is a shorter cornerback with a generous listed height of 5'10". He too, is best utilized in zone coverage and can get beat from time to time.
Hobbs also managed to return three kicks for touchdowns when he was a member of the Patriots. Which brings a facet to the game that Dennard should expand upon: special teams duty.
The Boston Herald's Jeff Howe believes that Dennard will need to establish himself as a capable special teams player as well, to ensure he makes the 53-man roster.
Ultimately, Dennard is blessed with deceptive speed and toughness. Those traits fit the mold of an NFL nickelback—a place where Hobbs spent part of his pro career.
Jeremy Ebert is a shifty wide receiver out of Northwestern. His quick feet and effectiveness in the return game went a long way towards the New England Patriots picking him as a late-round flier in the 2012 draft.
To the eye, Ebert appears to be a clone of Patriot slot receiver and returner, Julian Edelman.
However, the similarities don't end there.
Ebert and Edelman are both 5'10" and roughly 200 pounds. Both played as scrambling quarterbacks before switching to wide out. And to make matters more unusual, both men were seventh-round draft picks by New England.
Due to receivers like Edelman and Wes Welker manning the slot, Ebert is a long shot to make the final roster.
Nonetheless, he could be a do-it-all player for the Pats on the practice squad, and forge his way up the organization much like Edelman did before him.