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Updated Patriots 2016 Depth Chart: What are the Team's Current Needs?

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The New England Patriots have addressed some of their larger needs in free agency and can turn their focus towards improving the depth and future of the team through the draft. Here's an updated depth chart and how the team can fix or fill any of the needs.

Quarterback

1. Tom Brady

2. Jimmy Garoppolo

Need: Low. The Patriots can sign a camp body or two after the draft.

Rushing Back

1. Brandon Bolden

2. Tyler Gaffney

Need: High. The Patriots could either resign LeGarrette Blount (maybe Arian Foster?) or draft a player in the 2nd or 3rd round of the NFL draft, like Kenneth Dixon, Jordan Howard, or Paul Perkins.

Receiving Back

1. Dion Lewis

2. James White

3. Donald Brown

Need: Low. Lewis is recovering from a torn ACL, but White and Brown should cover the role for the offseason.

Fullback

1. James Develin

2. Joey Iosefa

Need: Low. Fullback was a clear hole after the rushing attack floundered in 2015, but Develin could very well hold down the position. The Patriots can also leverage tight end depth, like with A.J. Derby, to help the position.

Outside Wide Receiver

1. Chris Hogan

2. Aaron Dobson

Need: High. Both are unproven players, with Dobson likely entering his last chance at making the team. Hogan will stick around, but the Patriots could still draft an outside receiver and Hogan can play in the slot. Draftable players in the early rounds include Leonte Carroo, Michael Thomas, Rashard Higgins, Malcolm Mitchell, and Mike Thomas. Sterling Shepard is a slot receiver that could force Hogan to stay on the outside.

Flanker Wide Receiver

1. Julian Edelman

2. Keshawn Martin

3. Chris Harper

Need: Low. Edelman will hopefully be healthy after his foot injury, while Martin (who received a contract extension) and Harper provide offseason depth. Of course, Martin shouldn't prevent the team from selecting a flanker in the draft if a top tier player is available.

Slot Wide Receiver

1. Danny Amendola

2. DeAndre Carter

Need: Low. If Amendola remains on the team, the Patriots don't have a need. The draft could have some cheaper alternatives, but a restructure with Amendola remains the top option.

Tight End

1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Martellus Bennett

3. Michael Williams

4. A.J. Derby

Need: Low. Gronkowski is the most talented tight end in NFL history, while Bennett is a great #2. Williams can better function as a pure blocker. While the team could add a project tight end to replace Bennett, this isn't an immediate need.

Offensive Tackle

1. Nate Solder

2. Sebastian Vollmer

3. Marcus Cannon

4. LaAdrian Waddle

5. Cameron Fleming

6. Keavon Milton

Need: High. Solder hasn't played well in two years (coincidentally aligns with Dave DeGuglielmo's tenure as offensive line coach), while Vollmer and Cannon are free agents after this season. The Patriots could really use an offensive tackle project that could develop into a 2017 starter, like Joe Haeg, Joe Dahl, or Spencer Drango.

Offensive Guard

1. Shaq Mason

2. Josh Kline

3. Tre Jackson

4. Jonathan Cooper

5. Chris Barker

Need: Low. A light bulb went on for Mason as he became the team's top guard over the final couple weeks of the season. Kline and Jackson battled injuries, while Cooper was recently acquired. There are enough promosing players on the roster as Kline, Cooper, and Jackson will all compete for a starting spot opposite of Mason.

Center

1. Bryan Stork

2. David Andrews

Need: Low. The duo should both return in 2016 to offer quality depth at the position.

Defensive Tackle

1. Malcom Brown

2. Alan Branch

3. Dominique Easley

4. Chris Jones

5. Frank Kearse

6. Ishmaa'ily Kitchen

7. Joe Vellano

Need: High. Branch is aging and the team lacks an obvious #4 defensive tackle on the roster. A player that can rotate in 2016 and become a reliable player in 2017 would be ideal, like Chris Jones, Maliek Collins, Hassan Ridgeway, and Javon Hargrave.

Edge Defender

1. Jabaal Sheard

2. Rob Ninkovich

3. Chris Long

4. Geneo Grissom

5. Trey Flowers

6. Rufus Johnson

7. James Vaughters

Need: Low. Sheard, Ninkovich, and Long are locks, while Grissom, Flowers, and Johnson will likely compete for the final two roster spots at the position. The team is set up for the long term.

Linebacker

1. Dont'a Hightower

2. Jamie Collins

3. Shea McClellin

4. Jonathan Freeny

5. Jonathan Bostic

6. Ramon Humber

7. Eric Martin

8. Kevin Snyder

Need: Low. The signings of McClellin and Humber has fleshed out the position. While Hightower and Collins are both free agents after 2016, they are priorities #1 and #2 for the team and both will hopefully return.

Cornerback

1. Malcolm Butler

2. Logan Ryan

3. Justin Coleman

4. Darryl Roberts

5. Rashaan Melvin

Need: High, but with a veteran. The unit is extremely promising with Coleman and Roberts, but the depth is extremely shallow. If Butler or Ryan is injured, then the team is in trouble. A proven veteran on a two-year deal, like Tarell Brown, Brandon Boykin, Leon Hall, or Patrick Robinson, could be a good camp addition until Coleman and Roberts prove their worth. A two-year deal is key if Ryan departs in 2016 free agency.

Safety

1. Devin McCourty

2. Patrick Chung

3. Duron Harmon

4. Jordan Richards

5. Brock Vereen

6. Cedric Thompson

Need: Low. While Harmon will be a free agent after this season, the trio of McCourty, Chung, and Richards should be fine moving forward.

Summary

Immediate Need: Rushing Back

Depth Need: Defensive tackle, Cornerback

Future Need: Offensive tackle, Outside wide receiver

We've touched upon how the Patriots can best address the running back position with veterans this year, but the draft is flush with talent that meet the Patriots needs.

If the Patriots sign a veteran at rushing back and cornerback, the Patriots can use three of their top four picks on defensive tackle, offensive tackle, and wide receiver, and then use the 4th pick to trade down and acquire more draft selections.