Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cam Garrity

Could these draft picks mean the end for Cole Strange at guard?

The New England Patriots shocked everyone  at the 2023 NFL draft when selecting not one, not two, but three interior offensive lineman after selecting Cole Strange with a first-round pick back in 2022.

It would be one thing if these picks were in the sixth round and were merely fliers, but they spent real capital in the fourth and fifth rounds to add a center and two guards.

My first reaction to this was to naturally assume they would be depth pieces, but in all honesty, they’re better than depth, and would probably start Year 1 for most teams. So I started to wonder if there was something going on with the Mike Onwenu contract negotiations. Was this is a situation where the Patriots were looking a year out?

I’m all for retaining homegrown talent, and it would be a shock if Onwenu doesn’t stick around after 2023. But the Patriots have been pretty consistent in letting good interior lineman walk, like they did with Ted Karras and Joe Thuney.

Maybe the philosophy is to get ahead of impending free agents entirely, and Onwenu will walk after 2023. I then shifted to thinking that Onwenu would slide to right tackle, but Matt Groh was pretty quick to shut that down.

My next natural progression—and one that makes the most sense—is that the rookie offensive linemen, Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow, will both compete for the left guard slot, and Cole Strange will kick outside.

That may sound crazy, but let’s take a look at if this is even possible.

A look at Strange’s RAS score as an offensive tackle prospect is a great way to start. This will help us see if he is even remotely capable of doing so.

Strange is on the smaller side, standing at 6-foot-4 and 301 pounds, but he has the composite athletic ability to make up for it with an elite first step, change of direction and agility.

There is a good chance, like he mentioned in exit interviews with the media, he wanted to add some weight in Year 2 to take on power rushers. If Strange were to add 20 pounds to his frame, he would actually score a 9.82u (unofficial) with this year’s tackle prospects.

To put things into perspective, according to RAS, that score is better than Tristan Wirfs and Austin Jackson in 2020, Better than Andre Dillard (whom the Patriots were in on in the free agent period) in 2019 and Penei Sewell in 2021.

Left tackle is actually not a foreign thing to Cole Strange, who has played meaningful snaps at the position in college. He was primarily a guard, but he does have the experience and athletic traits to give the tackle position a shot in camp.

There is a reason the Patriots retained Conor McDermott, added Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson, drafted two guards and hired Adrian Klemm to coach the offensive line. I think it is all connected to a Cole Strange project.

If the Patriots tried Strange at left tackle and it didn’t work, they still have four capable starters and two backups that could sit a year, while the team decides the future of Onwenu. But if it were to work, the Patriots would have a battle at left guard between Sow and Mafi, while Trent Brown moves to right tackle.

They’d have good depth at both tackle slots.

The Patriots need long-term tackle help, and if Strange does in fact move, I think a lot of Patriot fans would feel differently about the 2022 pick. It’ll be fun to see what training camp looks like for the Patriots’ offensive line, but they have a lot more quality depth than they did last season and better coaching.

Let’s hope it translates to more time in the pocket for Mac Jones and more regular season wins.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.