FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Moments before the 2022 NFL Draft got underway, Bill Belichick predicted that the first round would see a considerable number of trades around the league. That eventually came to pass, and New England's head coach may have foreshadowed what his own team would do.
Speaking to fans gathered at Gillette Stadium for the first Patriots draft party since before the pandemic, Belichick hinted that he'd do what he so often does in Round 1 – trade down. Originally in possession of the 21st overall selection, New England swung a deal with AFC rivals Kansas City to move down, but remain in the first round, taking the Chiefs' pick at 29. In addition, K.C. gave the Patriots a pair of picks, one in the third (94th overall) and another in the fourth round (121st overall).
When the 29th pick arrived, the Patriots chose Cole Strange, a 6-6, 300-pound interior offensive lineman from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga who figures to be a guard in the NFL.
"My playing style is aggressive and relentless … I'm confident in my abilities overall as an offensive lineman," Strange asserted in a post-draft conference call. "I'll do everything I can to contribute to the team and add to the winning culture. I don't know any of the [Patriots] players personally, but I'm incredibly excited and cannot wait."
The newest Patriots rookie revealed that he was home with his father when he got the call from New England Thursday night. Strange had a strong showing during the pre-draft process, particularly the Senior Bowl, where the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) product faced stiffer competition than he normally went up against in college.
"I think the Senior Bowl helped me quite a bit," he acknowledged. "It showed to a lot of coaches and scouts that I was competitive enough. It was a really big week for me."
"Yeah, I feel like Cole fits well into our team and our system. Obviously, I think he's a good player," Belichick remarked to reporters at the conclusion of Round 1. "I think he has a good combination of skills – pretty athletic guy, good size, smart player that makes a lot of good decisions on the interior line. The Senior Bowl was part of it. He's played all the positions on the offensive line, so, we'll see. We look forward to working with him."
Belichick also told reporters on a post-Round 1 video conference that he felt he needed to swing the trade with the Chiefs in order to get Strange, whom the head coach felt wouldn't have lasted much longer.
"There were a couple of options there. If we'd stayed at 21, we obviously would have picked somebody – probably a good chance it would have been him. There were several teams we talked, some other conversations going on there, but ultimately that's the one we chose. Glad Cole was there when we picked."
New England currently owns 10 more selections over the next six rounds, including three picks on Day 2 of the draft, which resumes Friday evening with Rounds 2 and 3. Belichick indicated that more trades could be forthcoming.
"We'll go back tomorrow," he added, "restack our board, take a look at the projected draft order … we probably have some flexibility with what we can do over the next two days."