Patriots' 2022 first-round selection of Cole Strange looks worse and worse

Huge draft reach has proven to be a mistake
Chicago Bears v New England Patriots
Chicago Bears v New England Patriots / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

The New England Patriots under Bill Belichick were no strangers to head-scratching draft picks. Belichick squandered lots of first-round picks while in Foxborough. Those gaffes lent significantly to his dismissal from his duties in Foxborough by owner Robert Kraft earlier this year.

A glaring example was his 2019 pick, wide receiver N'Keal Harry, who flopped. However, Belichick's latest draft gaff came in the 2022 draft, when he selected a guard in the first round. That is rarely a good idea unless the guard's name is John Hannah or Zach Martin.

Belichick went against conventional wisdom, aka "consensus" drafting, and reached way up for his first-round pick, taking him far above where most observers had projected him. This move even elicited laughter from the then-NFL Champion LA Rams' brass. That pick, of course, was guard Cole Strange from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. That pick hasn't quite worked out.

The Patriots' Cole Strange pick was a mistake from the get-go

Bill Belichick very astutely traded down in the first round of 2022, and secured two solid extra picks. succinctly summed it up this way,

"Originally with pick No. 21, Patriots mastermind Bill Belichick traded down to pick 29 with the Kansas City Chiefs and in the process acquired an extra third- (94th) and fourth-round pick (121st)."

This was a solid move by the former Patriots' football boss. It was a great return for moving down only eight spots in the first round. Unfortunately, Belichick made the wrong move later in the round by selecting a guard, Cole Strange.

As noted, guards don't warrant that high a pick unless they project to be multi-year All-Pros (not just Pro-Bowers). Few have come along in the past 50 years, which alone was a huge red flag.

In addition, Strange had been projected highest at about a third-round grade. Taking him before that was a reach. Taking him in the first round despite those analyses was a huge reach and asking for trouble. Belichick cast any caution to the wind, and in perhaps one of his most poignant examples of hubris, he took Strange there anyway. The results have been as expected.

Patriots' Cole Strange has been a flop and a huge lesson should be learned

Mistakes like this ultimately cost Bill Belichick his situation. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. A very good coach, Belichick's Achilles' heel was his personnel acumen or lack thereof. Had he allowed a top personnel man to run that side of the operation, he'd have been the holder of a dozen Lombardi trophies while he had TB12 on hand, not just the six.

Cole Strange has been a mediocre player for the Patriots. While the pressure put on him as a first-round pick had lots to do with this, he still hasn't measured up. Strange has been an OK everyday NFL guard when he's played, nothing more. As his recent contract extension attests, Mike Onwenu, a sixth-round Patriots pick, has been a far better player.

Strange was also benched on occasion by Head Coach Belichick for playing unbecoming a Patriots guard. This embarrassment cast a negative spotlight on both the player and the general manager, who benched his former first-round pick.

Adding to the dysfunction, Strange suffered a severe knee injury in 2023 and will be as has just been leaned sidelined perhaps until well into the 2024 season. While serious injuries happen to the best of first-round picks (e.g., Cornerback Christian Gonzalez in 2023), the negatives on the Pats' 2022 first-round pick just keep piling up.

Eliot Wolf diverged from any reach whatsoever with his first pick as head of the Patriots' personnel. With his third overall pick this year, he took Drake Maye, a consensus top-three or better quarterback, a selection greatly applauded. While he did reach somewhat with his next two picks, a consolation is that they were at positions of need: wide receiver and offensive tackle.

While Mr. Wolf did reach somewhat on his next two picks, a consolation is they were at least at positions of need, wide receiver and offensive tackle. He did neglect left tackle, his most egregious omission, however. We'll see how all this works out.

One thing is clear, though: Drafting a lesser-important position in the first round and reaching for it as well is never a good idea.

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