3 frontrunners to have a big year-two leap on the Patriots in 2023

Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones (25) celebrates
Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones (25) celebrates / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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Cole Strange

Probably the most debated draft pick of the 2022 draft class, Cole Strange came out hot to start his rookie season. After all of the scrutiny and jokes made at the Patriots' expense for using a first-round draft pick on a guard, Strange performed incredibly well early on, simultaneously silencing the critics.

But as it often is with rookies in the National Football League, especially one who is a starter on day one, he hit some speed bumps throughout the season, which inevitably got him benched in a few games.

It's not unexpected from any rookie around the league, no matter how great they played in college or how well prepared they appeared to play in the pros; it happens every year on every team. The good thing, though, is when they learn from the hardships and build upon that within the same season, something Strange did as the season went on.

The offensive line struggled week to week, with Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn taking the brunt of the blame because of inconsistent protection and piling up penalties. So much of Strange's growing pains weren't as noticeable until he started getting back on track and more confident.

Through the final seven weeks of the season, he played his best football, even ending the year with possibly his best game against the Bills.

Now that he's experienced an entire season and all the unique and unimaginable problems that came with it, Strange is in far better hands with improved talent around him and a better mentor to coach him in Adrian Klemm.

If he can take all that he learned last season and couple that with his hard work during the offseason, including putting on weight and getting stronger, he could help propel the interior offensive line to new heights and become the best part of the unit overall.