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The New England Patriots surprised many by selecting Chattanooga Mocs guard Cole Strange with the 29th pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft, with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay seemingly among them.
McVay and Rams general manager Les Snead were in the middle of a news conference Thursday night when the Patriots’ selection was made, and it stopped McVay in his tracks.
The Super Bowl-winning coach’s mouth opened wide, and he said: “Wow! Cole Strange just went! How about that? And we wasted our time watching him, thinking he’d be at [pick] 104, maybe.”
McVay let out a hearty laugh. (The exchange occurs from 5:16-6:04 mark.)
The Rams’ initial selection in the 2022 draft is late in the third round — No. 104.
The Rams’ brain trust was complimentary of Strange, with Snead saying: “When he takes a first step, it’s about as quick a first step as an offensive lineman can take.”
But ESPN Senior Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rated the Strange pick as a “huge reach”, pointing out Strange was rated 69th on his Big Board. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had Strange as his 77th rated prospect, noting the “value was eyebrow-raising.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had a different view, saying the Patriots were considering Strange at pick No. 21 before trading down to get him at 29.
“He wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” Belichick said.
The 6-foot-4 and 307-pound Strange projects as a starter at left guard, where the Patriots have a notable void.
“He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s physically tough, he’s an aggressive player,” Belichick said. “I think he has a good combination of skills, run and pass, movement … and he’s a smart player that makes a lot of good decisions on the interior line timing, when to come off, and combo blocks, things like that.”
For his part, Strange isn’t allowing himself to get caught up in those who didn’t view him as a first-round pick.
“No matter where I got drafted, I was going to approach it the same way, with the same chip on my shoulder I’ve always had,” he said.
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