With the 29th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots pulled off a bit of a head-scratcher.
New England selected interior offensive lineman Cole Strange, who played at Chattanooga, an FCS school. Strange is listed on some draft boards as a guard, and on others as a center. The Patriots have a need at guard following the departures of Shaq Mason and Ted Karras, and also lack center depth behind David Andrews.
Strange, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 307 pounds, seemingly could fill both roles, similar to what Karras provided during his time in New England.
The Patriots originally were slotted to make the 21st selection, but they moved down to 29 as part of a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dane Brugler, a draft expert for The Athletic, has Strange listed as the fourth-best center in his 2022 draft guide. He also put a third-round grade on the Chatanooga product.
Here’s his summary of Strange:
A five-year starter at Chattanooga, Strange lined up primarily at left guard in offensive coordinator Joe Pizzo’s zone-based spread scheme. A 250-pound defensive end out of high school, he had no offensive line experience when he enrolled, but he dedicated himself to the transition and plays like a throwback with his bare hands (no gloves), single-bar lineman facemask and nasty attitude. Strange, who is attempting to become the first Chattanooga player to be drafted in the top five rounds since Terrell Owens in 1996, commanded the NFL’s attention with his 2021 performance vs. Kentucky, and he again rose to the occasion at the Senior Bowl, showing his versatility at both center and guard. His hands and feet need to be on time or defenders will take advantage, which will drastically lower his margin for error vs. NFL power. Overall, Strange struggles to recover once defenders gain the upper hand, but he works hard to stay balanced with his quick feet, strong hands and competitive toughness. He will be ready to compete for an NFL starting job (guard or center) in year one.
Here’s New England’s updated picks list:
Round 1: No. 29 (Cole Strange)
Round 2: No. 54
Round 3: No. 85, No. 94
Round 4: No. 121, No. 127
Round 5: No. 158
Round 6: No. 183, No. 200, No. 210
Round 7: No. 245
The NFL draft will resume at 7 p.m. ET on Friday night with Rounds 2 and 3.