NFL talent evaluator compares Cole Strange to Joe Thuney: He can become a 'great left guard'

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As more time passes, the Patriots’ decision to select Cole Strange in the first round of the NFL Draft may not be as strange as it originally seemed.

The Athletic’s Mike Sando recently published an in-depth roundup of the first round, featuring quotes from NFL execs and talent evaluators about all 32 picks. One of them says Strange had a high second-round grade, which meshes with Bill Belichick’s comments about how the Chattanooga guard probably wasn’t going to be on the board for much longer when the Patriots took him at No. 29 overall.

“He has unbelievable feet, his angles and technique are flawless, and I think he would have a high second-round grade,” said the evaluator. “He can get a little stronger. The rest, he has already got. Just an excellent lineman in space. He is Joe Thuney-like and can become a great left guard with the feet to play center. New England now has power on the right side of its line and good feet on the left.”

It would be a success if Strange becomes a comparable player to Thuney, who was a stalwart on the Patriots’ offensive line and was named second-team All-Pro in 2019. He also owns the distinct honor of being the first player in NFL history to start in the Super Bowl in each of his three first seasons.

The Patriots franchised Thuney in 2020 before he signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Chiefs the following offseason.

“Cole Strange is really symbolic of the way people viewed this draft,” added a league exec. “It really was such an eye-of-the-beholder draft. ‘We are taking guys we like, we don’t care where people have them mocked, we don’t care if people think it’s a reach.’ In the past, I feel like teams were more like, ‘We like him, but we can get him later.’”

The last time the Patriots took a guard in the first round was 2005, when they drafted Logan Mankins. He went on to make seven Pro Bowls and was named second-team All-Pro five times, and first-team All-Pro once.

Strange may still have been taken a little early. But when it comes to developing interior linemen, the Patriots have a strong track record.

Belichick’s pick seems to be held in higher regard around the league than with the laypeople.