Rookie mini camp gives fans a chance to get their first look at the newest additions to the New England Patriots, and though there isn't a wealth of information disclosed, we can certainly start to get a sense of what kind of players the Pats picked.
It also gives the media their first chance to interview the players to find out what these young men are like as people off the football field and just how important football is to them.
The Patriots selected seven players in the draft and added 19 rookie free agents, making for one of their largest rookie classes in recent memory. Not all these players will make the squad, much less make an impact on the 2013 season, but here are a collection of nuggets we learned about them.
One player who did not participate in mini camp was fourth-round draft pick Josh Boyce. Boyce broke a bone in his foot prior to the combine, but that did not stop him from running a 4.38 40-yard dash. He had surgery shortly after that and is still recovering.
If his performance at the combine is any indication, this should not be a major injury hurdle for Boyce to overcome. Clearly he still has the speed that the Pats needed to add to their offense this offseason, and with a fully healed foot we can only imagine how fast Boyce could be.
Holding him out of mini camp was the right move, but hopefully he'll be ready to go when the full team mini camp open on June 10. The more time Boyce misses, the harder it will be for him to catch up, and we all know how tough the Patriots playbook is to pick up, even more so when you're not practicing it on the field.
One player that the beat reporters unanimously came away impressed with was third-round pick Duron Harmon. Harmon demonstrated the kind of attitude that gave some insight as to why Bill Belichick shocked the scouting community selecting him so high.
My approach to learning new things is fun. This is what I want to do the rest of my life. I like learning. I like learning new schemes. I like learning more about football. So it’s not really daunting. It’s more fun. It’s more of a great challenge that I want to conquer to learn the playbook as fast as I can.
No one knows for sure how Harmon fits into the depth chart at safety, but it seems clear that he's just the kind of dedicated, football-loving player that the Patriots want. They'll let competition and injuries determine what Harmon's role will be.
At 6'3", Aaron Dobson has the kind of height that the Patriots have lacked in recent seasons at wide receiver. Belichick is certain Dobson's background playing basketball should serve him well, as it usually does for receivers:
I would say just based on my experience as a coach through the years that most basketball players, most have good hands. They have to handle the ball a lot. The ball is on them quick, tight passes and handling the ball in traffic and that kind of thing.
Dobson didn't choose football over basketball until his senior year of high school, but now that he has a chance with one of the premiere organizations in football, it seems like he made the right choice.
Combined with Rob Gronkowski, Dobson will give the Patriots two big targets in the red zone, both inside and outside. Defending two such players should give opposing defenses headaches.
The Patriots signed Armond Armstead from the CFL early this offseason, so most people are forgetting that he's really like an additional draft pick at just 22 years old.
Armstead had an outstanding rookie year in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts, where he was named an All-Star and led the team to the 100th Grey Cup championship. Armstead told reporters at Patriots mini camp that he was projected as a "second- or third-round pick" after his junior season. A medical condition cost him his senior year, and Armstead ended up in Canada in 2012.
Armstead could provide some interior pass rush that the Pats have sorely lacked since Mike Wright's retirement due to concussions. The Patriots needed to add some depth and talent along their defensive line, and Armstead has enough versatility to play multiple roles.
When you add him into the draft pick mix, the Pats' class looks even stronger.
T.J. Moe got the most lucrative contract of all the rookie free agents, and with the Pats wide receiver corps in turnover, it seems he would have a great chance to make the roster.
Moe also demonstrated his knowledge of Patriots history, which should endear him to fans of the team.
It's such a great organization. They've been the cream of the crop for the last 12-13 years. I think they've been to five Super Bowls -- is that right? -- since 2001, and went to another one in '96. Top of the line, great coaches, great people and really a great opportunity for me.
The biggest obstacle for Moe? Learning the Patriots playbook, but he's jumping in with both feet:
You've just got to hammer down and learn it. Everyone's got their own style, and the Patriots have their own style. I have nothing to compare it to as far as an NFL playbook. So I'm just coming in, eyes open, trying to learn. I know people say it's difficult, I'm just trying to do my best.
One of the biggest questions about the Patriots' draft class is how exactly they plan to use super-athlete Jamie Collins. Collins started out as a safety in college, then moved to linebacker, and then he ended up as a defensive end in his senior season.
Bill Belichick revealed that Collins would start his career with the Patriots as a linebacker. That could include an edge role, of course, which some would consider defensive end responsibilities.
He’s done different things and eventually as we go through the spring we’ll look at him in different spots, and see how it goes with him, and also see how it goes with him relative to other players we have and what kind of groupings, and how the team breaks up, where he might be able to help us. Not sure exactly how it’s going to turn out.
By now, everyone is familiar with the Patriots' struggles drafting wide receivers. Now their misses in the draft and in free agency have come to head, forcing the Pats to completely turn over the position.
Their hopes for a fourth Super Bowl for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick rest prominently on the shoulders of second-round pick Aaron Dobson. Dobson will be asked to bring the outside and deep presence they have lacked in recent seasons, along with fellow rookie Josh Boyce, and perhaps rookie free agent T.J. Moe.
However, Dobson's choice of No. 17 is doing nothing to calm the worries of Patriots nation. It only brings back memories of previous failed high-round receiver draft picks like Chad Jackson and Taylor Price.
There was enough pressure on Dobson before, but taking No. 17 magnifies it even more. Perhaps Danny Amendola taking trusted No. 80 will help bring some good mojo to the new Patriots receivers.