BOSTON (CBS) — You may have heard this already, but the New England Patriots were left without a first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. Something about PSI levels in footballs, or something like that, robbed them of that pick.

However, Bill Belichick has a knack for finding hidden gems in the draft, and Boston Herald beat writer Jeff Howe believes guard Joe Thuney just might be the latest example.

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“Joe Thuney was outstanding [in the Patriots’ preseason opener],” Howe said Monday morning on Toucher & Rich. “I’ve been saying this since Friday — he looks like a first-round draft pick. He’s been outstanding.”

Howe said that expectations were relatively low on Thuney, who was drafted in the third round at No. 78 overall after the Patriots traded down out of the 61st slot in the draft. Yet the 23-year-old out of North Carolina State has impressed.

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“I didn’t really know what to expect from Joe Thuney,” Howe said. “Once they put the pads on that first day on the third practice of training camp, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this guy definitely belongs.’ He doesn’t make mistakes, he’s strong as an ox, and it’s really hard for guys to get around him. Whether he’s practicing against his own teammates, or joint practices with the Saints, and then in the Saints game, I thought he played a flawless game. Now I’m sure Dante Scarnecchia noticed something that I couldn’t see, but from my eye, I didn’t see Joe Thuney make a mistake. And I think the Patriots have to be really excited about that, because he should be their starting left guard in Week 1 and for the foreseeable future.”

Howe also broke down the look of the rest of the offensive line, the health of Julian Edelman and Rob Ninkovich, and he also learned what a bris is. Listen to the wide-ranging discussion below:

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