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Patriots top draft pick Cyrus Jones draws comparison to Dont'a Hightower

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots top draft choice Cyrus Jones has made a strong first impression on one of the team's leaders, drawing a comparison to 2012 first-round draft choice Dont'a Hightower -- another Alabama alumnus -- in the process.

"Cyrus Jones, one of the Alabama guys, very similar to how High came in -- understands the defense, knows what he's doing out there," captain Devin McCourty said Monday night during an appearance on Comcast SportsNet's "Quick Slants" program hosted by Tom E. Curran.

McCourty's answer came in the context of being asked about which newcomer caught his attention, and he also noted how receiver Malcolm Mitchell made some "pretty good catches" in spring practices. McCourty added that he trained with undrafted running back D.J. Foster in Arizona leading into training camp and he's excited for him with the opportunity ahead.

At the same time, McCourty cautioned about reading too much into spring evaluations because those practices were held in shorts and T-shirts.

"A lot happens once you put the pads on, the grind of training camp every day, and you start to see guys separate themselves," he said on the program.

As for Jones, the 60th overall pick (second round), he played quite a bit in the slot during spring practices while working with a group that included top corner Malcolm Butler. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Jones also received quality reps as a punt returner and kickoff returner, which was cited by Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio as an area of his game that added to his value when the Patriots selected him.

Jones played in 51 career games at Alabama and totaled seven interceptions and 108 tackles, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also returned 46 punts at Alabama for 618 yards and four touchdowns.

If Jones, 22, can follow in the footsteps of Hightower and make a similar impact on the defense, the Patriots naturally would be thrilled.

He appears to be off to a strong start.