Strange, you say?
That doesn't begin to describe it.
Cole Strange, an offensive lineman from UT-Chattanooga, was the first pick for the New England Patriots in the 2022 NFL Draft. He went 29th overall, and - in true Bill Belichick fashion - was an extreme surprise choice.
The Patriots shocked NFL teams - and their own fans - when they selected Cole Strange in the first round. PIC: Chattanooga Athletics
Here's how we got here.
Bill Belichick loves to trade on Draft Day, as history tells us. This was his 84th Draft Day trade during his time at the helm of the Pats, and it was a good one.
Patriots trade to Chiefs:
Patriots acquire from Chiefs:
Normally I'd say the opposing team would be "fleeced" here, but since the Chiefs have so many picks, this feels like it makes sense. Ultimately, the Chiefs took CB Trent McDuffie, who was another hot commodity for the Pats. I don't mind this too much, given that three serviceable picks was the haul back, but it doesn't mean I can't be frustrated the Patriots passed on the talent that was available at the time.
R1, P29: Cole Strange
6-6, 300 lbs.
Good: Cole Strange was a guy that started the year as a sixth- or seventh-round pick. But an excellent year leading the Mocs' offensive line rose his stock. He finished as a 2021 3rd Team FCS All-American, and was a two-time SoCon Jacobs Blocking Award Winner, presented to the top offensive lineman in the conference. Strange is very clearly a gritty guy; his toughness earned him scholarships at Army and Air Force as a defensive end, but chose civilian life at Chattanooga, where he was converted to an offensive lineman. He's an excellent physical threat who can contribute at center or guard. He's a 6-6, 300-pound "man's man."
Bad: It's not on Strange, necessarily, for why this pick doesn't cut it for me just yet. There was just SO much defensive talent on the board. Andrew Booth, Devin Lloyd were both available. Why don't they get the call? We'll never know. According to ESPN, there was a 93% chance of Strange being available at R2, P54...the Pats' next pick. That one stings indescribably. Strange also needs to add some size in the lower half, as he lacks the lower-body strength that Mike Onwenu and David Andrews have. It's nothing he won't be able to do, I'm sure.
Comparison: Logan Mankins
I get Mankins vibes here. Nearly identical builds (Mankins was 6-5, 308) and somewhat similar paths to the NFL are definitely the two factors that stick out. Mankins was a middle-of-the-road offensive line recruit in high school, redshirted at Fresno State, but cemented himself as a lethal threat at the FCS level after he got some burn backing up David Carr. He got taken in the first round (pick 32) of the 2005 NFL Draft, and pissed a lot of Pats fans off when they passed over what they thought was better talent. Mankins probably ended up having a better career than most of the top ten picks - with the exception of maybe Alex Smith and Pacman Jones, which even so are two questionable names in this category - and earned himself seven Pro Bowl nods.
Pick Value: D-
Immediate Impact: B+
Fills Team Need: A-
If Strange's career ends up even close to how Mankins' played out, this would be masterful for Belichick. For now, we've got some proving to do. The pick value is tremendously horrid, as Strange would've more than likely been there for the Pats by the time they took the turn in round 2. But with Ted Karras signing with Cincinnati and Shaq Mason being dealt to the Bucs, the Pats have clear-cut questions at offensive line. Clearly, this is a promise to Mac Jones, as protecting the new franchise QB at all costs is top-of-mind for BB and the Pats. Strange immediately contends for - and, ultimately, is awarded - playing time in the OL rotation. I this kid in New England. Just have to trust the process.
Honorable mention: Devin Lloyd to the Jaguars at pick 27
I would've loved this guy in New England. In my draft preview, I sort of hoped that the Pats would enlist him to be the linebacker of the future...much like Jerod Mayo and Tedy Bruschi were. Lloyd slipped down to 27, which would means the Pats certainly could have taken him at 21 if they wanted, adding a little frustration to the mix. I'll be rooting for Lloyd in Jacksonville.