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Patriots Draft Grades: Bill Belichick Largely Panned For Selection Of Cole Strange In First Round

BOSTON (CBS) -- Raise your hand if you had the Patriots taking a guard out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the first round of this year's draft. Anyone out there? No?

Obviously, Bill Belichick went a bit off the board with his selection, using the 29th overall pick a player who was widely considered a second or third-round talent heading into the weekend in Cole Strange.

Of course, if Strange ends up having a long and successful career, then nobody will care about where he was drafted. But if he ends up playing like an FCS guard, the Patriots' move from No. 21 to No. 29 to select him early will be remembered forever in New England.

That part is yet to be determined. For now, the draft grades are out there. And they're not looking so good., Chad Reuter
Grade: D

"Their pick at No. 29 was a surprise, as Strange was selected at least 40-to-50 picks ahead of where I expected him to go. This is typical of New England, which often goes against the conventional wisdom in the draft. Strange is a versatile player with a high floor who will likely play for a long time. I'm not sure he warranted a top-50 pick, though."

CBS Sports, Pete Prisco
Grade: C

"They draft the replacement for Shaq Mason at right guard. This might be a little high for him, but it certainly fills a need. They get younger and cheaper."

Sports Illustrated, Kevin Hanson
Grade: D+

"While he'll fill the void created by Ted Karras and has versatility to play guard or center, this is a surprise, as they likely could have waited at least another round, possibly two, for Strange. Strange has good balance and quick feet and should be a solid interior blocker, even though the value in Round 1 is less than ideal."

The Athletic, Sheil Kapadia
Grade: D

"Let's be clear: Strange might end up being a Hall of Fame player. The draft is hard, and we shouldn't be certain about anything. Having said that, at the very least, it feels like the Patriots misread the market and could have moved down again for additional picks while still drafting Strange on Day 2. Instead, they used their first-round selection on a soon-to-be 24-year-old interior offensive lineman. I'm happy to look foolish with this grade a couple years from now, but I don't get it."

Yahoo Sports, Eric Edholm
Grade: C-

"Our 91st-ranked player, Strange screams Patriots … but also screams poor value. Of course, many people said the same thing when the Patriots took Logan Mankins in this same range many years ago. Strange is a highly intelligent, highly competitive interior blocker who might be the starting left guard from Day 1. But it's a big jump in competition, and he was up and down at the Senior Bowl."

The Ringer, Danny Kelly
Grade: D

"Let's start with the good part: The Patriots traded back before making this pick, netting an additional third- and fourth-round pick from the Chiefs. Now the bad part: They did that thing that the Patriots like to do, which is select a player that almost no one (literally no one?) expected to be a first-round pick. I actually like Strange as a player, but he's a soon-to-be 24-year-old small-school interior lineman who struggled to anchor and may lack the bulk to play anywhere but center. New England leaves an awful lot of talent on the board here in grabbing Strange, my 73rd-ranked player. I don't love the value, even with the trade down factored in."

Bleacher Report, Brent Sobleski
Grade: F

"Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots don't care what anyone thinks. Otherwise, they wouldn't have reached for Strange with the 29th overall pick. Reach may be an understatement. Bleacher Report's Scouting Department graded Strong as the 98th-best prospect in this year's class. The Patriots selected him a full two rounds earlier than his grade indicated. Some will argue the Patriots have done this before. They have. Belichick and Co. successfully drafted Logan Mankins much earlier than expected in the 2005 draft. Maybe Strange experiences a similar career path. The Patriots gave Shaq Mason away for next to nothing and now have seemingly decided to replace him with Strange in the first round."

Fox Sports, Rob Rang
Grade: B-

"Well, the last name certainly is appropriate as the Patriots selection of the UT-Chattanooga blocker was a bit odd. In all seriousness, while Strange caught many of us off guard (he checked in at 87th on my board), I loved the physicality and tenacity he showed against top competition at the Senior Bowl and listed him among my favorite sleepers. Still, this felt like a selection New England could have made on Day Two. Don't be surprised, however, when Strange competes for a starting role early and latches on to that role with the same grip strength he shows as a blocker."

NBC Sports Boston, Phil Perry
Grade: D

"The question is: Did the Patiots do the right thing by trading back from No. 21 overall -- passing on the opportunity to draft Washington corner Trent McDuffie, or Florida corner Kaiir Elam -- and gaining picks in the third and fourth round in order to take a player on the interior of the offensive line that the L.A. Rams believed would be available to them after pick number 100 overall. The value here is what is the head-scratcher, not necessarily the player. He is a fit, he will be able to play, and I believe he will play effectively. But could the Patriots had had him at pick No. 54 overall or even later in the third round? That's why the grade for this pick has to be a D."

ESPN, Mel Kiper Jr.

While Kiper didn't assign grades, he listed the Strange pick as one of his biggest head-scratchers: "This was a huge reach on my board. I thought Strange might sneak into Round 2, but he's not a first-round talent. I know New England has a hole at guard, but will Strange even start immediately? Strange made 44 starts in college and plays with good technique, but this is high for a prospect who is No. 69 on my Big Board. The good thing for Bill Belichick & Co. is that they added extra capital by moving down eight spots with the Chiefs, adding pick Nos. 94 and 121."

Average Grade: D+

Using the classic grade school scale of 1-100, the average grade for this pick comes out to a D+ at 68.7. Most analysts and draftniks agree that Strange can play, but they also believe he would have been available later in the draft. Thus, even though the Patriots did add a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick in their move backward in the first round, the Patriots passed up the opportunity to draft a player with more talent at a more premium position when they went with Strange at No. 29.

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