FOXBORO - The New England Patriots clearly delivered the surprise of the 2022 NFL Draft by selecting Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th selection.
Despite several draft experts projecting him as late-round selection, the Pats showed a great deal of faith in Strange by securing his services in the first round. As a result, it appears that faith will be rewarded, as Strange is expected to sign his rookie deal on Wednesday, per reports.
With the Patriots feeling the void at left guard after the departures of Joe Thuney in 2021 and Ted Karras this offseason, Strange should be a welcomed addition to the line. Though he has experience at guard, he has the versatility to fill in at center, as well as tackle.
Strange is a tenacious run-blocker with the quickness to generate sudden impact on power runs. He has also displayed an ability to seal defenders on zone runs. He has outstanding upper-body strength, as well as the large hands necessary to grasp defenders in pass protection. In addition to his size, he has fluid movement to mirror his opponent, as well as to recover when he struggles with a defender.
This should be music to the ears of the Patriots, especially quarterback Mac Jones. Despite a stellar rookie campaign, Jones most often struggled in 2021 when opposing defenses attempted to confuse the Pats’ quarterback by deploying strategically placed blitzes from the second and third level of the defense. With a complete, healthy offensive line, the task of protecting Jones against such an attack becomes a bit easier. It also takes a little grit — a trait which Strange exudes. During the team’s offseason workouts, Strange saw the majority of his snaps at left guard, alongside the starting unit. With the start of training camp just over a month away, it is clear that New England has high hopes for its first-round selection.
As of Wednesday, the Patriots were one of just two teams who had yet to sign their first-round pick to a contract. As Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the Pats currently have $142, 280 in available cap space. In order to for Strange’s salary into their budget, New England is expected to accompany the signing with some cap-clearing transactions.