BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots entered Thursday night with the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft. They’d end up trading that pick, moving down in the first round and selecting guard Cole Strange out of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with the 29th overall pick.

The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Strange was slated as a second-round pick by NFL.com, and a third-round pick in other places. Needless to say, his selection certainly caught many in New England by surprise.

“Highly experienced interior lineman who does a nice job of staying on schedule. He shines over the first two phases of the block, which means he gains early positioning and gets into the sustain phase with proper hand usage and footwork,” NFL.com’s Lance Zerlein said of Strange. “He will lose a tug-of-war battle as a pure man-to-man blocker, but wins with lateral quickness and an understanding of angles as a move blocker. A snappier pass punch is needed to prevent sub-package rushers with hand talent from bypassing him too easily. His frame and play strength are a little below average, but he has done some snapping in practice, so he could land as a future starting center for a zone-happy rush offense.”

Strange joins Mac Jones (15th overall, 2021), N’Keal Harry (32nd, 2019), Isaiah Wynn (23rd, 2018) and Sony Michel (31st, 2018) as recent first-round picks of the Patriots, who didn’t make a first-round pick in 2020, 2017, or 2016.

Strange was a five-year starter for Chattanooga, using a COVID exception to gain an extra year of eligibility. He was named to the AP All-America Third Team in 2021, after starting nine games at left guard and two at left tackle.

Some of the players believed to be possibilities for the Patriots — like Boston College guard Zion Johnson and Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning — were off the board before the original spot the Patriots were at in the first round. The Chiefs drafted defensive back Trent McDuffie at No. 21 after trading with the Patriots to move into that spot. The Patriots received a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick for dropping eight spots in the first round.

As it stands now, the Patriots own one second-round pick (No. 54 overall) and one third-round pick (No. 85) on Friday night. On Saturday, they own six picks, including three sixth-rounders.

CBSBoston.com Staff