The New England Patriots selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of last month’s draft did come as a surprise to fans and analysts alike. After all, he was projected as a third-round selection by a majority of pundits.
That said, Strange was not as high an overdraft as it seems. Not only does it seem the NFL was much higher on him than those outside the league, the 23-year-old also brought some legitimate first-round traits to the table: his athletic profile is nothing short of elite.
The Patriots caught a first glimpse of it last weekend. Strange was among the participants in the team’s rookie minicamp, and he left a positive first impression on one of his positional coaches.
“We had the guys in this weekend for rookie minicamp,” Matt Patricia said during a media conference call on Tuesday. “You get to see them on the field, but you’re also looking at them compared to other guys that are just walking in the building for the first time. [On Monday], we get into the skills portion of what we can do in Phase 2, and now you can get them mixed in with the veteran guys.
“And I think from that aspect of it, you can see his athleticism. You can see it match up with the guys that are vets or have been here, or have been in the NFL, which is really good. All of those are things that we saw and things that we like, but he’s got a long way to go.
Using Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score as a point of reference, Strange is one of the most athletic guards to enter the league in the last 35 years. Since 1987, only six other players at the position have posted a higher RAS than the Patriots’ first-round investment:
Cole Strange was drafted with pick 29 of round 1 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.95 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 7 out of 1298 OG from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/RRKLKRSIJK #RAS #Patriots pic.twitter.com/FxExB6k1sR— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 29, 2022
Of course, athleticism alone does not make a football player. Patricia basically said so himself on Tuesday when he pointed out that Strange and the rest of New England’s rookies still have ways to go before getting to the same level as their more experienced teammates.
“The other part about putting him out with the veterans, guys that have been here, is you just realize how further along those veterans are. How long they’ve actually just from this year been working towards getting ready for football,” he said.
“What happens with the college guys is they come out and they’re really trying to get ready for a pro day or a combine or something like that, not necessarily football skills. And that’s the part that we’ve really got to keep pushing to catch up with.”
Strange was selected 29th overall by the Patriots. With both Ted Karras and Shaq Mason having left the team this offseason, he projects as a starter along the interior offensive line.