FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Four "winners" and "losers" as a result of the 2016 New England Patriots draft class:
LeGarrette Blount -- The team's top power running back in 2015, he returned on a modest one-year contract as a free agent after finishing last year on injured reserve in December (hip). The expectation was that he might face competition from a draft pick, but the Patriots didn't select a rusher at any point. That doesn't necessarily mean Blount is completely in the clear, but the way the draft unfolded strengthened his position.
Donald Brown -- The free-agent running back who signed a modest one-year deal is well-rounded in terms of being able to play on early downs and in obvious passing situations (I thought some of his late-season 2015 tape was positive), and with the Patriots forgoing the position in the draft, it further highlights how Brown has a nice opportunity ahead of him in New England if he continue some of the momentum he built late last year.
Marcus Cannon -- The swing offensive tackle who is scheduled to earn $3.4 million in base salary was expected to receive competition in the form of a high draft pick, but it never really came, unless third-rounder Joe Thuney of NC State is truly a tackle and not a center as several other clubs project him to be. While that doesn't guarantee Cannon anything, it seemed to be a nice turn of events for him.
Kevin Faulk -- Already considered worthy of Patriots Hall of Fame status, the retired running back (1999-2011) further endeared himself to the team's fans by wearing Tom Brady's jersey while announcing a third-round draft choice in Chicago. That fired up the team's fans.
Jon Bostic -- The linebacker acquired in a 2015 trade from the Bears, who was going to face longer odds for a roster spot before the draft after the free-agent signing of Shea McClellin, had another layer of competition added in the form of sixth-round picks Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts. Grugier-Hill's projected niche as a core special teams player might trump Bostic (who isn't a big factor on special teams) in terms of value at backup linebacker on the roster.
Aaron Dobson -- Already viewed to be on the bubble for a roster spot, the 2013 second-round draft choice watched as the team added two draft picks at the receiver position -- fourth-rounder Malcolm Mitchell and seventh-rounder Devin Lucien.
Markus Kuhn -- With the selection of Nebraska defensive tackle Vincent Valentine in the third round, it creates another lock at the position along with 2015 first-round pick Malcom Brown, while veterans Alan Branch and Terrance Knighton also project to earn roster spots. This adds another layer on the depth chart for Kuhn, who signed a one-year deal after four seasons with the Giants, to compete against.
Bryan Stork/David Andrews -- Thuney, the third-round draft choice who had experience at all five positions at NC State, could fit best at center. That's a position that didn't seem to be on the radar entering the draft but could have a potential trickle-down effect on Stork and Andrews, and possibly also the likes of guard Josh Kline.