Dante Scarnecchia defends Patriots after unusual Cole Strange pick
By Mike Luciano
The New England Patriots may have made some solid additions on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft, but the success of this class will be largely determined by the performance of first-round pick Cole Strange. The Chattanooga lineman was widely regarded as a third or fourth-round talent across the league before being picked No. 29 overall.
The Patriots do have a need on the interior of their offensive line, and Strange could be a starter at right guard that eventually slides over to center. While no one is questioning the need, there is some debate over New England reaching to do so by taking an inferior talent.
The Patriots have typically made a habit of turning less-heralded linemen into starters, as Dante Scarnecchia has always been able to teach technique to players who have the athletic chops. The former offensive line coach believes that the Patriots made a good selection if Bill Belichick was willing to go against the grain.
“The thing about him as for any offensive lineman other than tackle, is that it’s not a sexy pick, but it’s one I’m sure they felt they really needed or they wouldn’t have done what they did,” Scarnecchia told the Boston Herald. “I’m sure they felt like they had a hole, they had to fill it, and this is the guy that was best suited to fill it.”
Dante Scarnecchia likes the Patriots’ drafting of Cole Strange.
On one hand, Strange graded out as one of the most athletic guard prospects of the last 30 years irrespective of competition level. When he had to play top competition, like when he took on Lions second-rounder Josh Paschal and Kentucky, he had some very encouraging results on tape.
Now the negatives. Strange struggled mightily at center during the Senior Bowl. While he improved on Day 2, the lack of play strength came back to haunt him. No matter how you spin it, going from playing East Tennessee State to the Buffalo Bills will be a major adjustment for him.
Turning Strange into a starter will be reliant on helping him add some weight and refining the technical mistakes that he got away with against FCS opponents. A 24-year-old rookie, Strange will have to assume a starting role relatively quickly if he wants to maximize his potential in the pros.
Belichick has had his usual slew of late-round hits over the last few years, but he hasn’t always been the best with using his premium draft capital. That could change if Strange ends up hitting on his potential.