In one of the least shocking events of what was round one of the NFL draft, the Patriots chose to move back. Trading with the Chiefs, they went from pick 21 to pick 29. A lot of defensive talent was still available at that time, most notably for the Patriots: Trent McDuffie, Devin Lloyd, Nakobe Dean, Andrew Booth Jr., and others.
But when pick 29 finally came, did New England choose any of those defensive players? Nope. They shocked the entire NFL world by selecting the guard from UT-Chattanooga, Cole Strange.
Beefing up the offensive line was a big need heading into this draft, making this pick not entirely random. But Strange was valued to be a third-round selection at best. Choosing him in the first round was a very Belichick-ian style pick, given the choices left and the positions of need for the Patriots.
What was the general reaction to this pick?
After trading Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early this offseason, New England was looking to find his replacement in the draft. Before their pick at 29, top OL prospects Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green were taken, leaving the Patriots worried they would miss out on Strange.
According to Bill Belichick. Because of the feeling he wouldn’t be available past their pick, Belichick chose to draft him far earlier than most experts anticipated.
Social media went berserk when the pick was finally announced, with a general feeling of confusion. Although Strange had gone to the Patriots in many mock drafts, the thought was it would occur on day two or three of the draft.
The reactions have certainly been all over the place, from anger to disappointment to satisfaction. All of the above are completely valid, given the talent that was left on the board at the time of their pick. And how far down their second-round selection will be.
But there is something to remember: Strange was consistently mock drafted to the Patriots. Clearly, he seems like a great fit for the team; his addition was just far sooner than most had envisioned.
Who is Cole Strange?
HEIGHT 6’4 7/8″
WEIGHT: 307 LBS Combine Stats:
WINGSPAN: 6’7 3/4″
40-YARD DASH: 5.03
After briefly attending the United States Air Force Academy, Cole Strange transferred to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Strange played six seasons at the school, with five years under his belt as a starter.
Once becoming a full-time starter in 2018, Strange played in all 11 games at LG and earned second-team All-Southern Conference. In the following season, he started in 12 games at the position and ended the year filling in at center for a game.
Over the next two years, Strange demonstrated excellent abilities to not only play his given position but also anywhere needed on the OL. The last season of his college career was a memorable one; playing in 697 offensive plays and only giving up one sack and 5 pressures.
As a leader of the team, Strange helped pave the way for the running backs to average 205.5 rushing yards per game.
NFL.com All-Combine Team: 2021
All-America First Team: Stats Perform, AFCA, Walter Camp, HERO Sports & Phil Steele: 2021
2021 All-America Third Team: AP
Jacobs Blocking Award: 2020, 2021
Invited to the 2022 Senior Bowl, becoming only the eighth player in school history to attend
Why did the Patriots make this selection?
It has often been said how much New England loves versatility in their players and Strange fits that to a T. During his college career, he gained experience playing left guard, left tackle, and center.
Given the current state of the Patriots’ offensive line, Strange’s flexibility and background make him an easy pick for the team.
Spending an extra year in college, Strange enters the league with more experience than most. He’s a highly intelligent player and a very good athlete capable of moving quickly and efficiently.
His agility allows him to adjust position and change direction, helping to continue plays by the QB or RB. Creating space for runners will be a huge benefit for the Patriots as their run game usage has increased over the last two years.
Despite playing for six different offensive line coaches in college, Strange showed significant development every new season. His awareness and technique shined which aided greatly in the success of the offense. He’s a great pass-blocker and powerful in the run game, both of which have been vulnerable areas for the Patriots in recent years.
What does Strange need to improve on?
Strength: needs to work on his core strength and gain weight to avoid getting pushed back by defenders and losing balance
Hand control: lacks consistency in ability to move his man with his hands
Consistency: needs better leverage in pass protection, more body control, consistency with blocking in motion
Quotes from draft analysts:
“Overall, Strange struggles to recover once defenders gain the upper hand, but he works hard to stay balanced with his quick feet, strong hands and competitive toughness. He will be ready to compete for an NFL starting job in year one.” Dane Brugler of The Athletic
“Highly experienced interior lineman who does a nice job of staying on schedule. He shines over the first two phases of the block, which means he gains early positioning and gets into the sustain phase with proper hand usage and footwork.” Lance Zierlein of NFL.com
Snippets from Bill Belichick after round one:
“Cole fits in well with our team and as a player.”
“He’s a smart player who’s played multiple positions. We’ll see how it goes. I think he has an opportunity to be competitive at a couple different things.
“He’s long, athletic. He’s physically tough and aggressive. I think he has a good combination of skills.”
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