3 first-round picks Patriots bafflingly passed on to select Cole Strange

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JANUARY 10: University of Georgia inside linebacker Quay Walker #7 of the Bulldog football team tackles running back Brian Robinson, Jr., #4 from the University of Alabama during the 2022 College Football Playoff Championship game between University of Georgia and University of Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Perry McIntyre/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

As the No. 21 pick loomed, Bill Belichick appeared to have the pick of the defensive litter. But when the dust settled after the New England Patriots traded all the way back to No. 29, he may have simply picked … litter.

Not quite the same level of excitement as last season’s Mac Jones selection, huh?

Just a few seconds after initial rumors claimed New England was about to nab Trent McDuffie for their defensive backfield, it turned out Belichick had pulled off his favorite kind of coup and moved from 21 to the 29th selection, leaving McDuffie for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Why did the Chiefs feel the need to leap the competition for a defensive back, gifting the Patriots a few extra assets from their Tyreek Hill trade? Er … next question. But after the frantic swap, Belichick still had seven picks to survive and tons of prototypical defensive options still on the board.

He opted for a Tennessee-Chattanooga OL (center/tackle/announced as a guard on draft night) Cole Strange. Some ranked him inside the top 100! Some did. Some didn’t. A first round is only 32 picks long.

You can trust Belichick while still raising your eyebrows, especially considering the talented defensive names (and rumored Patriots connections!) that were all selected in that sweet spot between where the team should’ve selected and where they actually strode to the podium.

Why did the Patriots pass on these 3 defensive prospects for Cole Strange?!

3. Quay Walker

What happened overnight?! On Wednesday, we heard Walker “wouldn’t get past” New England at No. 21. On Thursday, he was available at 21 .. which the Patriots traded out of, allowing the Green Bay Packers to add Walker at 22!

An objectively infuriating development, even if you weren’t a Walker fan and just hated being lied to via logistical failures.

Never mind that the rangy linebacker posted the fourth-fastest 40 time of all 2022 linebacker prospects at this year’s Combine. Never mind his elite size, specifically his 96th percentile wingspan. Never mind his National Champion pedigree. Apparently, the holes in his coverage ability were enough for Belichick to let him slide on by and ignore his crush like a flighty eighth-grader.

For the stars to align and place Walker at 21, just as the prophecy foretold, only for the Patriots to shirk the “McDuffie vs Walker” debate altogether and go mid-tier offensive lineman with their first pick instead? Only in New England will anyone believe this’ll work.

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