Bill Belichick’s Cole Strange Pick at the NFL Draft Made Him a Laughingstock
The Patriots coach made the soon-to-be 24-year-old Chattanooga guard the 29th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft
Picking close to the end of the first round after trading down from No. 21 with the Chiefs, the New England Patriots made Chattanooga guard Cole Strange the 29th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Within moments, that pick made the Patriots seem foolish and Bill Belichick a laughingstock, literally.
Watching the draft in the middle of a news conference Thursday night because the Rams had no first-round picks after trading them away, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead openly mocked New England’s selection in front of the media, with the former saying the club had Strange projected to go late in the third round at No. 104 overall.
Snead and McVay weren’t the only ones who found the Strange pick strange as ESPN was so caught off guard by the Patriots selecting the Chattanooga product that the network didn’t have any highlights of him ready to play when he was plucked off the draft board.
To be fair to Strange, the selection and subsequent reaction have nothing to do with him. A sixth-year player and five-year starter who took advantage of an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, Strange excelled at left guard in Chattanooga’s run-heavy scheme and surrendered just one sack in the last four years. He could be an immediate starter for New England and unquestionably fills a need on the team. However, given where Strange (who was called a “huge reach” by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper and ranked 69th on his big board) was projected to be taken, the Patriots could have likely filled one of their other needs and still picked him up later in the draft.
Speaking after the draft, 70-year-old Belichick pushed back on the idea that Strange would have still been on the board when the Patriots are slated to pick next (No. 54 overall) and also said the team considered him at No. 21 before trading back with the Chiefs.
“Yeah, he wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” Belichick said. “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.”
Perhaps Belichick, who did hit with an out-of-the-box pick when he took safety Kyle Dugger out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne with New England’s first pick just two years ago, will be proven right and Strange will go on to have a 10-year career as a starter in the NFL. But if that doesn’t happen the pick won’t look strange — it will look outright foolish and the laughter of McVay, Snead and the rest of the NFL will ring in Belichick’s ears until his retirement.
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