The New England Patriots used their first-round pick on Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange intending to eventually turn him into a quality starting lineman in the pros. Bill Belichick had to have known that there was a sizeable degree of risk when he made this selection.
While Strange did have some impressive tape against FBS opponents, the fact that New England used a first-round pick on an older guard that had some awful reps at the Senior Bowl shows that Belichick is willing to wait one or two years before he reaches his full potential.
Strange is a quality athlete for the position, but he’ll need to get tons of practice reps in before Belichick feels comfortable throwing him into the fire. Some revealing quotes from top Patriots assistants make it sound like Strange has quite the mountain to climb before he gets pro reps.
Patriots assistant Matt Patricia said that Strange has “a long way to go” after kicking off rookie minicamp. Patricia said that his “ability to grow and learn” is what will make Strange a valued prospect. Based on quotes like these, Strange might not see the field a ton as a rookie.
Patriots will be patient with Cole Strange
While Strange tested as quite literally one of the greatest athletes of all time on the interior offensive line, there’s a big jump from being 23 and playing against 19-year-old future accountants to blocking Aaron Donald. Strange will need to be brought along very judiciously.
The selections of Strange and second-rounder Tyquan Thornton show that New England is willing to take big gambles on developmental prospects at the expense of getting Mac Jones some players that could contribute in 2022. Both of these players carry very high ceilings, but there are some questions about their value during their rookie seasons.
If Strange can add some more weight and work on the poor pass pro anchor that saw him get bullied in Mobile, he could become a decent starter. While not the sharpest from a technical point of view, Belichick has proven to be a solid teacher of offensive line technique.
The Patriots have been able to pull off this developmental offensive lineman gambit before, as names like Logan Mankins and Matt Light were thrown out as justifications for the Strange pick.
Unfortunately, based on the coaching staff’s review, it appears as though New England’s top pick will be riding the pine early on.