The New England Patriots selecting offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft triggered a lot of reactions, with a significant portion of them viewing the choice negative. Strange was seen as a reach compared to the consensus established by the draft community, and a player who could be had in a later round.
One of those critical of the selection was NBC Sports’ Peter King, who called the selection “a naïve move” by the Patriots and their head coach/general manager Bill Belichick. To support his argument that there was “no indication he’d have gotten picked before New England’s next pick at 54” — something Belichick disputed on Thursday night — King shared a video of Strange from the Senior Bowl.
The video is not a flattering one and shows the Patriots’ first-round draft pick struggle to stand his ground against eventual third-round selection Travis Jones:
Here’s new Ravens third-round pick Travis Jones at the Senior Bowl going up against Patriots first-rounder Cole Strange pic.twitter.com/XmdbMXJtEv— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) April 30, 2022
That clip was not the only one that made the rounds on social media, though. Another clip of Strange going up against Jones was trying to convey the same message; the new Patriot appeared to have a rough time against the new Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman.
Everyone saw that viral rep of Cole Strange getting kills by Travis Jones. Here’s another rep from the Senior Bowl. pic.twitter.com/dpd0Gvxy42— Henry Coffey McKenna (@McKennAnalysis) May 2, 2022
Those clips look concerning, with Strange ending up on the ground both times against a player coming off the board almost 50 draft slots later. However, close inspection and proper contextualization show us that you should not be worried about any of those clips.
More than anything, they attempt to feed into the narrative that Strange has been a reach. They are not, however, indicative of his skills and potential as a starting-caliber offensive lineman in the NFL.
For starters, both saw Strange line up at a position he only played minimally in college: center. Out of his 44 career starts at Chattanooga, only one came at that position. For comparison, 42 came at left guard with another at left tackle; Strange has some potential as a center but he is much more pro-ready at guard.
Furthermore, the reps themselves are not as bad as they look like at first glance. The first appeared to be a run block designed to move to the left, which opened the door for Jones on the other side. Despite being caught out of balance, Strange was able to hold his block for roughly 3.1 seconds before being tossed down by a 325-pound player he would hardly face one-on-one in an NFL game.
The second block was a pass-protection rep. Strange held his block for roughly 3.3 seconds before Jones got past him. Those times are important when measured against the average throwing time of an NFL quarterback: Mac Jones’ average time to throw in 2021 was 2.63 seconds.
That does not mean those reps were particularly good or that Strange does not have considerable room for improvement heading into the pro level. However, they are a ridiculously small sample size compared to his overall body of work that week and throughout his college career.
By all accounts, Strange was one of the better blockers at the Senior Bowl and proved himself against NFL-level competition. The Patriots were there first-hand to watch him perform and evaluate that performance properly.
Apparently, they were not concerned — and neither should be you.