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2016 NFL Draft: Thanks to Free Agency, the Patriots Can Now Pick Best Player Available

The New England are in pretty good standing as they head towards the NFL Draft.

Sure, Bill Belichick and company won't have a first round pick, but at least they'll have freedom to approach the board however they want.

There are very few positions on the roster that have an immediate need and that grants the Patriots an ability to pick whomever they want and allows them to move around the board at will. Here's why.

Running Back

The Patriots would likely enter the 2016 season with Brandon Bolden, Donald Brown, Dion Lewis, and James White as the depth chart. Sprinkle a little LeGarrette Blount into the mix and you have enough camp competition to last the offseason.

Wide Receiver

Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, and even Chris Harper offer some top-to-bottom quality on the roster. While Amendola isn't a lock, and Edelman's age is closer to a concern, it's hard to argue that the team can and would find an impact rookie wide receiver.

Factor in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett at tight end, and it's probable that only two wide receivers will be on the field the majority of the time. With Edelman at one spot, that leaves the rest of the depth chart competing for the other role. There's enough depth to feel comfortable in camp.

Offensive Tackle

Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are the starters, with Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle as the back-ups. While there is a need in 2017, the team is pretty set for 2016 and would have to move one of these four players in order to add another tackle via the draft.

Defensive Tackle

Malcom Brown and Alan Branch return as the starters, while Dominique Easley is the passing down specialist. A 4th defensive tackle would be great to add, but with Chris Jones already on the roster and the addition of Frank Kearse, the team could feel pretty okay moving forward.


Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan are the top corners and Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts are promising players. The Patriots added E.J. Biggers, with 34 career starts, to serve as the veteran we've said the team needed to sign to the roster.

These are the only positions that the Patriots could argue for an improvement through the draft. Quarterback, tight end, interior line, edge defender, linebacker, and safety are more than prepared at both the starting and depth levels.

And of the five positions we've expanded upon, need is a very loose descriptor.

The Patriots have veterans at running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and cornerback that can allow the team to compete in its current state. The only "hole" on the roster without a 2016 starter is at running back, and LeGarrette Blount would be a cheaper, more proven, and probably just as capable option compared to whatever back would be available in the draft.

Instead, the Patriots can approach the draft with two main goals: 1) Build for 2017; and 2) Take the best players available.

If the Patriots want to draft Alabama running back Derrick Henry, a likely top 40 pick, to be the bellcow, they can move up and do it. If a wide receiver like TCU's Josh Doctson o Baylor's Corey Coleman magically falls out of the first round, the Patriots can move up and grab him. If one of the premier tackles like Michigan State's Jack Conklin, Ohio State's Taylor Decker, or Indiana's Jason Spriggs is available in the second round, well, you know the deal.

Bill Belichick and company have done a great job of fleshing out the roster in free agency so the draft can be about taking the best player on the board at any position, with the freedom to move up and down the board at will.