Who is the Patriots first-round draft pick Cole Strange?

The New England Patriots certainly know how to surprise people on draft day. While last year’s college player selection meeting was quite 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 the 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.

Hard facts

Name: Cole Strange

School: Chattanooga

Position: Inside offensive line

Opening day age: 24

Size: 6 foot-5, 307 pounds, 33 arm, 79 3/4 wing catch, 10 1/8 hand,

Goal: 5.03 40-yard line, 28 “vertical jump, 10’0” wide jump, 4.50 short shuttle, 7.44 3-cone, 31 bench press

Player profile

Career: A two-star linebacker recruit from high school, Strange originally engaged to Chattanooga, then briefly returned to the Air Force before moving back. He red-shirted his true freshman season and shifted position from six games as a guard during his first year in college. Strange continued to serve as a five-year starter for the Mocs, primarily at left guard, but also briefly at left tackle and center.

In all, he appeared in 49 appearances during his college career. He started 44 matches and received several individual awards. In 2021, he was named 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 Scouting Combine after his senior season.

Forces: Strange is an athletic freak and has actually recorded the seventh highest Relative Athletic Score of all guard prospects in the last 35 years. He has impeccable balance and fluidity and has proven himself when asked to act as a lead and pull blocker.

Weaknesses: Although he is a fundamentally healthy player, Strange needs to get stronger to find success against competition at the NFL level. He is also not the most powerful player when he is on the go.

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What is his expected role in New England? While some teams saw him more as a center than a guard, the expectation is that Strange will line up on guard in New England. As such, he will likely help replace the late Ted Karras; Karras was the Patriots’ starting left guard in 2021, and Strange, who started 42 games at that spot in college, is likely to take over.

Where does he fit into the offensive line depth chart? Earlier this offseason, Patriots director of personnel Matt Groh mentioned that the team would expect its first-round pick to have an immediate impact. Strange should be expected to take over the opening concert on the left guard immediately and bring some stability to a position that had tons of it before Joe Thuney’s free agent departure in March 2021.

Does he have positional versatility? Although most of his snaps at Chattanooga came on the left guard, Strange also has experience elsewhere. He started one match at the center in 2019 and another at left tackle in 2021. He also has a handful of snaps at right tackle on his resume.

What is the value of his special team? Like any offensive lineman, Strange has limited value when it comes to kicking. That said, the expectation is that he will fill in as a defender on field goal and extra point kicks right away.

What does this mean for New England’s draft prospects? Picking Strange in the first round met one of the team’s greatest needs, but that does not mean another offensive lineman is still not in the cards later. The tackle position remains, after all, somewhat of a question mark with Isaiah Wynn entering the final year of his contract and Trent Brown slowly coming up there in age.

Judgment on one sentence: His selection in the first round may be a head scraper, but Strange checks many boxes for the Patriots and is an evil SOB on the inner offensive line.

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