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NFL Draft grades 2022: Evaluating the Patriots’ performance in the 1st round

Related: 3 winners and 3 losers from the first round of the NFL Draft

NFL: MAR 03 Scouting Combine Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tommy Callahan would probably kiss this New England Patriots draft on the mouth if he could, because as he famously put it after graduating college in only seven years, D+ isn’t a grade they like to give out.

And, uh, promise you won’t get mad?

.....There’s kind of a lot of those going around right now. Everyone from the national media to the blog boys to the local fish-wrappers has something to get off their chest when it comes to Bill Belichick and the Patriots taking a prospect that all but the most hardcore draft nerds would’ve believed was a prospect from Madden.

Last year in this space, when we rounded up the draft grades, I called the Mac Jones pick at 15th overall “polarizing”, which... after last night’s pick of Cole Strange at No. 29, seems like quite the “ah, we were so young and innocent back then” situation. Was there some (reasonable) debate on whether Mac was worth the pick that early? Sure. But the Patriots’ need at the position was undeniable, and there was at least a decently broad consensus that if Jones came in and was even a replacement-level quarterback, he’d be a massive upgrade from the end of the 2020 season where some of Cam’s passes were flying around looking like skee-balls.

Anyway, let’s see what you all thought before we jump into everyone else!

View From the Pats Pulpit Community

.....We’ve certainly had more consensus around these parts before, I can tell you that.

Onwards to the people that make lots of money doing this football-takes thing for a living!

View From National Football Media

ESPN - Mike Reiss

My take: Strange projects to start at left guard, and if he follows in the footsteps of 2005 first-rounder Logan Mankins (32nd) or 2016 third-rounder Joe Thuney (78th), this will be a solid pick that addresses one of the team’s obvious needs (albeit one created by trading veteran guard Shaq Mason). Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, a former New England scout, had identified Strange before the draft as an ideal Patriots fit. One question: Did the Patriots overdraft him? Strange was viewed by some draft analysts as a second- or third-round pick ... which was actually what was said about Mankins back in 2005.

Cornerback regrets? After starting cornerback J.C. Jackson departed in free agency, the Patriots had a chance to draft his replacement at No. 21 overall — Washington’s Trent McDuffie — who wasn’t projected to be available at that point by many draft analysts. But they instead followed through on a trade, moving back to No. 29 and picking up third-round (94) and fourth-round picks (121). The Chiefs took McDuffie at No. 21 with the pick acquired from the Patriots. If he goes on to become a shutdown corner, that could hurt from a New England perspective.

Solidarity with the Trent McDuffie Hive on here. I love him too.

Pro Football Focus

Pick Grade: Poor

This is the biggest reach of Round 1 as the Chattanooga Mock was 86th on PFF’s Big Board. His anchor and footwork is suspect, making it highly unlikely his early contributions are significant. On a positive note, Strange is a versatile and elite athlete who excels in space. The 6-foot-5, 307-pound lineman posted a mark above the 89th percentile at the position historically at the combine in the 40-yard dash (5.03 second), broad jump (120-inches), three-cone drill (7.44 seconds) and pro agility (4.5 seconds). Before blowing up the event in Indianapolis, Strange impressed many across the league by spending almost all of the Senior Bowl at center despite not playing a single down at the position for Chattanooga. -AT

USA Today - Touchdown Wire

Grade: D

I’m not sure where the Patriots plan to play Strange. If they want him at guard, I’m not sure how well he fits the gap/power stuff that has been a mainstay for Bill Belichick’s team, and if they want him at center, I think Kentucky’s Luke Fortner would have been the better pick. Not that I’m questioning the football acumen of the greatest football coach I’ve ever seen… but this is a head-scratcher.

Rams head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead seemed equally mystified.

The Ringer - Danny Kelly


Let’s start with the good part: The Patriots traded back before making this pick, netting an additional third- and fourth-round pick from the Chiefs. Now the bad part: They did that thing that the Patriots like to do, which is select a player that almost no one (literally no one?) expected to be a first-round pick. I actually like Strange as a player, but he’s a soon-to-be 24-year-old small-school interior lineman who struggled to anchor and may lack the bulk to play anywhere but center. New England leaves an awful lot of talent on the board here in grabbing Strange, my 73rd-ranked player. I don’t love the value, even with the trade down factored in.

Yahoo Sports - Eric Edholm

Our 91st-ranked player, Strange screams Patriots … but also screams poor value. Of course, many people said the same thing when the Patriots took Logan Mankins in this same range many years ago. Strange is a highly intelligent, highly competitive interior blocker who might be the starting left guard from Day 1. But it’s a big jump in competition, and he was up and down at the Senior Bowl. Grade: C-

The SB Nation Mothership

This is the most Patriots pick ever, selecting a dude a round early nobody was expecting and probably turning him into a star. Strange is big, strong and intelligent. He’s kind of everything the Patriots value in their linemen. I don’t have extremely strong feelings on this other than being a little surprised by it all, but that’s par for the course when it comes to New England drafting.

Grade: C - Chad Reuter

Grade: D

Analysis: The Patriots traded down from No. 21, acquiring two middle-round picks from the Chiefs. Their pick at No. 29 was a surprise, as Strange was selected at least 40-to-50 picks ahead of where I expected him to go. This is typical of New England, which often goes against the conventional wisdom in the draft. Strange is a versatile player with a high floor who will likely play for a long time. I’m not sure he warranted a top-50 pick, though.

The Athletic - Sheil Kapadia

Strange (6-foot-5, 307) is one of the bigger surprises in the first round. He started 44 games in college — 42 at left guard, one at left tackle and one at center.

Brugler had Strange ranked as his 73rd overall prospect. Sean McVay thought Strange might be available at No. 104.

Let’s be clear: Strange might end up being a Hall of Fame player. The draft is hard, and we shouldn’t be certain about anything. Having said that, at the very least, it feels like the Patriots misread the market and could have moved down again for additional picks while still drafting Strange on Day 2.

Instead, they used their first-round selection on a soon-to-be 24-year-old interior offensive lineman. I’m happy to look foolish with this grade a couple years from now, but I don’t get it.

Grade: D

Football Outsiders

Activate the BeLiCHick kNowZ moRe tHaN U hive for this reach.

And now, as promised, the local fish wrappers:

NBC Sports Boston - Phil Perry

Grade: D

The New England Patriots made the most surprising pick of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft by taking Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th overall selection.

It was a head scratcher, to say the least, and it definitely caught plenty of people off guard. One of the biggest reasons for that is the fact most experts projected Strange to be a third-rounder, or maybe someone who could sneak into the late second round.

Even Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay had an incredible reaction when he learned the Patriots took Strange in Round 1.

Strange does project to be a solid player, and potentially a Week 1 starter at guard. He’s a tough, athletic and fundamentally sound offensive lineman. The Patriots also lost both of their starting guards from last season — Ted Karras and Shaq Mason — earlier this offseason. So there’s no doubt Strange fills an important roster need.

But could the Patriots have taken him on Day 2 of the draft and addressed a premium position like cornerback in the first round? Probably.

CLNS Media - Evan Lazar

The downside to selecting Strange in the first round has nothing to do with the player, who has all the traits and athletic tools to develop into a long-term starter in New England.

However, the criticism comes down to the positional value of selecting a guard with their top pick, a guard that many experts saw as a day two value, and how that ultimately helps the Patriots compete in a highly-competitive AFC packed with teams loading up on talent.

Boston Herald - Andrew Callahan

Grade: D

Analysis: Stunner. Complete shock.

The Patriots addressed the most glaring hole in their starting lineup Thursday night, but they did so by drafting an offensive lineman most expected to go in the third round.

Strange was the 76th-ranked player on The Athletic’s consensus board, an average of all major media draft rankings that annually proves to be the most predictive board publicly available. Strange also rated as the 74th-best player in this class by NFL Network analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, 73rd at The Athletic and 77th at ESPN.

Jerry Thornton - Barstool Sports

The Patriots decision to once again defy consensus opinion, drop back eight spots and draft small school guard Cole Strange when there was still a motherlode of big name defensive talent on the board has triggered a ton of reaction in New England.

Besides, the critics who point out that Strange fills a hole the Pats themselves dug when they let Ted Karras sign with Kansas City and traded Shaq Mason for a Dunkins gift card are not wrong. Sure, they had gotten relatively expensive. But earned their pay. And I’d rather have Mason and one of McDuffie, Walker, Devin Lloyd or Devonte Wyatt, than his rookie replacement and (so far) no defensive addition.

The help we’re all looking for will in all likelihood be coming tonight, with the now three picks (54, 85, 94) they’ve got, plus the extras they’ve added for trade flexibility. One can hope. You shouldn’t evaluate a draft after one round any more than you should critique a painting when it’s only in the outline stage or judge a porn before the pizza delivery guy shows up.

Pats Propaganda - Tom Shaw-Mellors

Wow, somewhat of a stunner by the Patriots as they take a projected Day 2 pick in the first round. Originally the Pats traded down eight spots with Kansas City, and with the likes of Nakobe Dean, Dax Hill, and Anthony Booth Jr still on the board, Bill decided to fill the interior line position.

I won’t lie, I don’t like the pick this high, I think there is more elite talent on the board, however, the team hasn’t been afraid to reach a little for players they really like, I guess we’ll see.

A rich tapestry, as they say.

The Patriots are back on the clock on Friday night at pick No. 54.