The New England Patriots made arguably the most surprising pick of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night with their selection of Tennessee-Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange.
Widely projected as a day 2-3 pick, Strange ranked 86th on the “consensus big board” at NFLMockDraftDatabase.com, and peaked at 69th. ESPN’s own “draft predictor” calculated a 93 percent chance that Strange would still be available at pick No. 54, where the Pats pick next.
Apparently, Bill Belichick is taking the 7 percent. Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the first round, after midnight on Friday, Belichick was asked if he believed Strange would be taken by the time it got to the Patriots’ second pick, and replied: “Yeah, he wouldn’t have lasted much longer.”
Belichick was also asked whether Strange was a consideration for them at 21st, where the Patriots originally stood in the first round. The Pats ultimately traded pick 21 to the Chiefs for No. 29, 94, and 121. Belichick indicated that Strange may have been their pick anyway.
“Yeah, well, if we had stayed at 21, then we would have obviously picked somebody. Probably a good chance it would have been [Strange],” Belichick said. “I don’t know, there were several teams that we talked to prior to when we made the trade. There were some other conversations going on there, but ultimately that’s the one we chose.
“Glad Cole was there when we picked, and as I said, feel like we made the best decision that we could at 21.”
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If Strange was atop the Patriots’ draft board at 21 regardless, then you can certainly follow the logic of trading down and acquiring additional picks. The Patriots now have three selections in rounds 2-3, which take place Friday in Las Vegas. The Pats hold picks 54, 85, and 94.
The question is whether Belichick picked the right player with Strange, especially over other players that were available from 21-28. Based on his post-draft comments, he was convinced that another team would’ve drafted Strange in the 30-53 range if he didn’t strike in the first round.
New England had a need at guard entering the draft, and Strange should have a chance to start right away. Belichick must believe that, regardless of what the draft prognosticators are saying.
PHOTOS: Patriots 2022 first-round pick Cole Strange
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