2022 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. calls Patriots' Cole Strange pick 'huge reach'

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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. explains why Patriots' Cole Strange pick is 'huge reach' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots took a gamble Thursday night by selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange with the 29th pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Strange projects to be a very good offensive lineman for a long time. He's a tough, skilled and athletic guard who could start right away. This scenario playing out would be great for the Patriots, but could the team have selected that kind of player later in the draft?

Perry: Patriots pass up quality talent to fill a self-inflicted need

Most mock drafts projected Strange to be a third-round pick. The Patriots also have a history of identifying quality offensive lineman in the middle rounds. They drafted Joe Thuney in the third round in 2016, Shaq Mason in the fourth round in 2015 and Michael Onwenu in the sixth round in 2020.

By taking Strange, the Patriots passed on a bunch of talented players at premium positions. Cornerback is a huge roster need for the Pats, but they opted not to take Washington's Trent McDuffie or Florida's Kaiir Elam at No. 21. They also passed on Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill at No. 29.

Just how big of a reach is this pick by the Patriots?

Here is ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.'s take on the surprising choice:

"This was a huge reach on my board. I thought Strange might sneak into Round 2, but he's not a first-round talent. I know New England has a hole at guard, but will Strange even start immediately? Strange made 44 starts in college and plays with good technique, but this is high for a prospect who is No. 69 on my Big Board.

"The good thing for Bill Belichick & Co. is that they added extra capital by moving down eight spots with the Chiefs, adding pick Nos. 94 and 121."

Next Pats Podcast: Trying to make sense of the Patriots STRANGE first round pick | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

Guard was a position of need for the Patriots, there's no debating that. They lost both of their starting guards -- Ted Karras (free agency) and Shaq Mason (trade) -- earlier in the offseason.

But was the first round the right time to address the guard position, especially when a bunch of talented defensive players are still on the board?

The answer is probably no, but after making that trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots do have plenty of ammo to move up in the second round if a player they like slides a bit, similar to what happened last year when New England moved up for Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore.

The Patriots will enter Day 2 of the draft with pick No. 54 (second round), No. 85 (third round) and No. 94 (third round). These picks will be even more under the microscope after New England, in the minds of many experts, reached for Strange in the first round.