It's not that Cole Strange isn't good, but the Patriots passed up on some elite talent

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Perry: Patriots pass up quality talent to fill a self-inflicted need originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Strange. Perfect.

What better way to describe the selection made by the Patriots on Thursday night? Cole Strange -- an interior offensive lineman out of Chattanooga -- was arguably the most surprising pick of the first round at No. 29 overall. This is a move that decision-makers in different corners of the league would comfortably call a reach.

But the Patriots are gonna Patriots ...

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

The head-scratching nature of the pick isn't necessarily about Strange's skill set or his fit in New England. He can play. He's everything the Patriots -- and Dante Scarnecchia in particular -- have told us matters along the offensive line. He's smart enough. He's tough enough. He's athletic enough.

In fact, he likely has more than enough when it comes to all three of those particular traits.

Though he comes from a smaller program, what he did at the Senior Bowl should make the Patriots comfortable handing him a real role as a rookie. He's nasty and has tremendous movement skills -- at 6-foot-5, 307 pounds he ran a 5.03-second 40 (90th percentile), a 4.50-second shuttle (90th) and hit 10-feet in the broad jump (99th) -- making him a nice complement to the massive Mike Onwenu at the other starting guard spot.

He fills an immediate need. He's physically gifted. He'll be a culture maintainer at One Patriot Place and he'll help keep Mac Jones healthy. He's a Prototypical Patriot.

But what had us flummoxed initially during our "On The Clock" special on Thursday night was that Strange likely would have been available to the Patriots on Day 2 of the draft. Maybe even late on Day 2. The Rams apparently thought he could make it to them at pick No. 104, which is the second-to-last Day 2 choice this year.

The second confounding element to the selection is what the Patriots passed on to take Strange where they did.

They traded back out of No. 21 to add third and fourth-round picks late Thursday night. But in the process they eschewed the opportunity to draft promising players at some of the most valuable positions in the game like Washington corner Trent McDuffie, Florida corner Kaiir Elam, Florida State edge defender Jermaine Johnson and Purdue edge defender George Karlaftis. They also gave up the chance to take athletic linebackers Quay Walker out of Georgia and Devin Lloyd out of Utah.

Even at pick No. 29, players like Washington corner Kyler Gordon, North Dakota State wideout Christian Watson, Central Michigan tackle Bernhard Raimann and USC outside linebacker Drake Jackson were still on the board and would've made sense in Foxboro. If they'd hit as pros, they would've provided immense value on rookie contracts.

2022 NFL Draft Highlights: Cole Strange

1651234748

The skill sets players at those positions possess can be hard to find. And if you want to find those skill sets on the veteran free-agent market, you're typically paying through the nose.

That's not the case at guard. The Patriots apparently wanted to get cheaper there. They freed up money by dealing away starter Shaq Mason for a fifth-round pick earlier this offseason. And in drafting Strange, they've filled that need they created.

But the opportunity cost of passing on McDuffie and Elam in particular -- players who play a position that is in need of an upgrade, especially considering the receiver talent that's been added lately within the AFC East -- looks massive. Especially since it's conceivable the Patriots could've had McDuffie and Strange at No. 21 and No. 54, respectively.

Strange may end up having a fantastic career in New England. If he provides Joe Thuney-esque production, for instance, few would look back on this pick and say it was a bad call. But Thuney was selected in the third round. Mason went in the fourth. Guards are easier to find. It's reflected in their salaries across the league.

Yet the Patriots used their most valuable draft bullet on one that folks in the know believed would've been available to them much later.

Strange, indeed.