The New England Patriots are a lot of things, but predictable is not one of them. Thursday night served as another reminder of that.
After trading down from the 21st overall selection in the in the NFL Draft, they were on the clock again at No. 29. This time, there was no trade. This time was the time for a shocker: offensive lineman Cole Strange out of Chattanooga.
The selection caught a lot of people by surprise — including on the Pats Pulpit Draft Show — mainly because of Strange’s small-school status and pre-draft projections. Virtually every big board published had him as a third-round pick, and yet the Patriots picked him off the board late on Day 1 and with plenty of first-round projections still available.
Accordingly, the reactions to the pick were a mixed bag both outside the league and within it.
The video of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead commenting on the pick as it happened went viral shortly after he draft. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed cast out a net to reel in some statements from NFL personnel:
“I couldn’t believe it,” one AFC scout said.
“I was shocked to see him go that early,” an NFC scout said.
An NFC executive reacted to the pick with an eight-character text: “Bahahaha.”
An AFC executive — not employed by the Patriots, to be specific — had a more measured take.
“He’s a good player, will be a starter,” he said. “Just picking good players is the key if you like them.”
According to NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, one AFC East coach described strange as “a great fit there from a playing style/athleticism profile and he eats, drinks and sleeps football.” There are apparent concerns with this particular coach about his pass sets but that “he showed growth at the Senior Bowl.”
The Patriots, obviously, trusted their own board and evaluation of the 23-year-old. And for good reason: Strange is an outstanding athlete and a legitimate starter-level guard from Day 1. He therefore fills a need that opened up when Ted Karras left the team in unrestricted free agency and Shaq Mason was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just one day later.
“He has a good combination of skills and ability. He played well. He played well against good competition at Chattanooga, both in their conference and when they played up, and I thought he played well against competition at the Senior Bowl,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said about his team’s rather polarizing pick after the end of the first round on Thursday night.
“He’s a smart player that’s played multiple positions. We’ll see how it goes, but I think he ... has an opportunity to be competitive at a couple different things.”
How would you grade the Patriots’ selection of OL Cole Strange at No. 29?
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