After trading the No. 21 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots ultimately made their first pick at No. 29 overall. Their selection could end up being one of the most confusing of the entire first round.
New England selected Tennesse-Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange 29th overall, moving past cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. and a number of players who fell late in the first round.
“Cole fits well into our team and our system. We obviously think he’s a good player,” Bill Belichick said of his new pick early Friday morning, noting he didn’t think Strange would have stayed on the board any longer had New England passed him. .
While we don’t know what the Patriots’ or other teams’ ratings are on the players at this time, the consensus on Strange as a second- or even third-round pick heading into Thursday night makes that hard to believe.
But there’s certainly more to the Patriots’ calculations than simply grabbing a player just to fill a need — something Belichick said he doesn’t buy into.
Here are some thoughts on the “weirdest” pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Patriots prioritize need over value.
First, let’s talk about the pick itself and what it says about where the Patriots are as a team.
On the one hand, Strange’s writing ostensibly addresses New England’s urgent need for an offensive guard; he seems a good bet to beat most of the veterans currently on the roster for the guard position that Michael Onwenu doesn’t play.
But it’s fair to note that the Patriots haven’t to have need an offensive guard in the draft. Mason had two years, not one, on his contract when the team traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they weren’t willing to pay a few extra million to keep Ted Karras in town. Had they kept either player, New England will likely go in a different direction here.
Trading Mason for a fifth-round pick only to then turn around and draft a guard, especially Strange, with their first overall pick in the draft feels like a poor allocation of resources, even with the cap space saved by leaving Mason. .
The other element: the absence of legendary Dane Scarnecchia and his descendants Carmen Bricillo (now with the Las Vegas Raiders) and Cole Popovich (left the team in 2021) could also have forced the Patriots’ hand.
After years of regularly turning mid-round picks into capable starters, New England may have decided they needed to go for a top-notch plug-and-play starter to protect young quarterback Mac Jones. – which isn’t quite at the level of pocket Tom Brady at the moment – rather than trusting their usual development process.
Whatever the reason, Belichick left players who typically had higher overall ratings than Strange, like Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. and Michigan safety Daxton Hill, on the board to make that pick. He’s probably going to be faced with a lot of questions about it over the next few years.
Wild draft board goes against Pats.
Of course, taking Strange was almost certainly not “Plan A” for the Patriots. Belichick hinted that the Patriots might have taken Strange to No. 21 had they stayed there, but we’ll never know now.
Anyone clamoring for a first-round wide receiver was disappointed pretty quickly as the top four wide receivers in the class, including injured Alabama star Jameson Williams, were dropped from the board by the No. 12 pick. But the New England probably won’t be too worried about it after getting DeVante Parker in a trade and bringing Nelson Agholor back to where he belongs.
But the loss of Zion Johnson and Trevor Penning probably hurt a lot more.
After weeks of speculation that Johnson was a good fit for the Patriots and possibly the aforementioned top-notch talent they would shy away from, the Los Angeles Chargers stole the lineman from Boston College at 17th total rank.
Then the athletic and nasty tackle Penning came off the board for the New Orleans Saints at No. 19 – two spots before the Patriots were chosen.
Knowing what the team just did with Strange, it’s extremely likely the Patriots would have taken Johnson or Penning if either was available at No. 21.
Strange has the athletic advantage of approaching the ceiling of those other players, but right now it feels like the Patriots ended up with the “best of the rest” in a place they really wanted to approach the best talent.
The cornerback is not a priority for the Patriots?
In an interesting twist, New England apparently didn’t value the cornerback class as highly as some would have hoped.
Obviously, they would have been interested in a player like Derek Stingley or Ahmad Gardner had they miraculously dropped to No.21. But that wasn’t going to happen. But the next cloud of cornerbacks, led by Trent McDuffie and Kaiir Elam, are solid players for the end of the first round.
And yet, the Patriots opted to trade the No. 21 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs, who took McDuffie. The Buffalo Bills then took Elam with the No. 23 pick. Finally, sitting at No. 29 with Booth Jr., a corner who looks like exactly the type of cornerback the Patriots would like, on the board, New England went with Strange.
Was it a simple matter of needing the cornerback not being as big as the offensive line? Didn’t they love these corners as much as everyone else?
Whatever the reason, it seems unlikely the Patriots won’t be adding to their cornerback room soon with Malcolm Butler and Jalen Mills likely listed as their two outside starters. It feels like Pick No. 29 would have been the time to do it.
Another Day 2 trade on the way?
If that makes Patriots fans feel any better, the team at least has more ammunition to meet its other needs, including cornerback, on Days 2 and 3 of the draft.
By trading with the Chiefs, the Patriots acquired the 94th pick (third round) to go with the two picks they already have in the second (54) and third round (85). They also got the 121st pick (fourth round) to use on Day 3, where they hold six other picks.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the Patriots pack at least one of those late-round picks to make up a second- or third-round hit for rookie-level talent.
With plenty of intriguing receivers, cornerbacks and linebackers still on the board, there’s a lot of movement on Day 2, which might actually be the meatiest part of the draft.
Keep in mind: New England traded picks No. 46, 122 and 139 to nab Christian Barmore at No. 38 overall last season. A similar move is absolutely in the cards on Friday.
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