The New England Patriots sure know how to surprise people on draft day. While last year’s college player selection meeting was pretty unusual — quarterback Mac Jones was the favorite to land with the team in the middle of the first round — this year’s Day 1 selection came out of left field.
Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange joined the Patriots as the 29th overall pick in this year’s draft. Who is he, though? And what does he bring to the table? Let’s find out.
Name: Cole Strange
Position: Interior offensive line
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-5, 307 pounds, 33 arm, 79 3/4 wingspan, 10 1/8 hand,
Measurements: 5.03 40-yard dash, 28” vertical jump, 10’0” broad jump, 4.50 short shuttle, 7.44 3-cone, 31 bench press
career: A two-star linebacker recruit out of high school, Strange originally committed at Chattanooga, then briefly flipped to Air Force, before transferring back. He redshirted his true freshman season and changed positions starting six games at guard during his first year in college. Strange went on to serve as a five-year starter for the Mocs, primarily at left guard but also briefly at left tackle and center.
All in all, he appeared in 49 games over the course of his college career. He started 44 games, and earned several individual accolades. In 2021, he was named a first-team All-American, first-team All-Southern and the top offensive lineman in the conference. A team captain, Strange was invited to the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine after his senior season.
Strengths: Strange is an athletic freak, and in fact registered the seventh highest Relative Athletic Score of all guard prospects in the last 35 years. He has impeccable balance and and fluidity, and and has proven himself when asked to serve as a lead and pull blocker.
Weaknesses: While he is a fundamentally sound player, Strange needs to get stronger to find success against NFL-level competition. He is not the most powerful player when on the move either.
What is his projected role in New England? While some teams viewed him more as a center than a guard, the expectation is that Strange will line up at guard in New England. As such, he will probably help replace the departed Ted Karras; Karras was the Patriots’ starting left guard in 2021 and Strange, who started 42 games at that spot in college, will likely take over.
Where does he fit on the offensive line depth chart? Earlier this offseason, Patriots director of personal player Matt Groh mentioned that the team would expect its first-round pick to make an immediate impact. Strange should be expected to take over the starting gig at left guard right away, and to bring some stability to a position that had tons of it before Joe Thuney’s free agency departure in March 2021.
Does he have positional versatility? Even though the majority of his snaps at Chattanooga came at left guard, Strange has experience in other spots as well. He started one game at center in 2019 and another at left tackle in 2021. He also has a handful of snaps at right tackle on his résumé.
What is his special teams value? Just like every offensive lineman, Strange has limited value when it comes to the kicking game. That said, the expectation is that he will fill in as a protector on field goal and extra point kicks right away.
What does it mean for New England’s draft outlook? Picking Strange in the first round addressed one of the team’s biggest needs, but that does not mean another offensive lineman is not still in the cards later on. The tackle position, after all, remains somewhat of a question mark with Isaiah Wynn entering the final year of his contract and Trent Brown slowly getting up there in age.
One-sentence verdict: His selection in the first round may be a head-scratcher, but Strange checks a lot of boxes for the Patriots and is one mean SOB at the interior offensive line.