The New England Patriots raised quite a few eyebrows when they selected Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft. Strange ended up starting all 17 games for the team and played some solid if at times inconsistent football along the way.
While his future appears to be bright, a recent re-draft published by ESPN has the team go in a different direction in Round 1:
21. New England Patriots
Original pick: Trent McDuffie, CB (KC traded up)
New pick: Evan Neal, OT
It was an up-and-down rookie season for Neal with the Giants, but just as his bookend tackle Andrew Thomas grew after a shaky start to his career, the projection is Neal will do the same. The Patriots learned firsthand in 2022 how difficult it can be when there is a shortage at tackle. Neal has high-end traits with which to work. — Mike Reiss
The Patriots had issues at offensive tackle throughout 2022, and adding Neal to the equation would have helped address those. However, the team will now need to find a different way to improve the position again heading into 2023.
As for ESPN’s re-draft, by the way, the Patriots still ended up with Cole Strange: he was available in the second round, and drafted instead of wide receiver Tyquan Thornton.