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Criticize the Patriots if You Must, but Show Respect When Cole Strange's Name is in Your Mouth

Butch Dill. Shutterstock Images.

The Patriots decision to once again defy consensus opinion, drop back eight spots and draft small school guard Cole Strange when there was still a motherlode of big name defensive talent on the board has triggered a ton of reaction in New England. From the nuanced:

To the ridiculous:

And to some extent, I get it. With the memory still fresh in my mind of me doing the Princess Leia "We have no defenses!" thing in January while the Bills' Death Star blew our Alderaan into gravel, I was all about adding Trent McDuffie or Quay Walker and figuring out the guard situation later. 

Besides, the critics who point out that Strange fills a hole the Pats themselves dug when they let Ted Karras sign with Kansas City and traded Shaq Mason for a Dunkins gift card are not wrong. Sure, they had gotten relatively expensive. But earned their pay. And I'd rather have Mason and one of McDuffie, Walker, Devin Lloyd or Devonte Wyatt, than his rookie replacement and (so far) no defensive addition. 

The help we're all looking for will in all likelihood be coming tonight, with the now three picks (54, 85, 94) they've got, plus the extras they've added for trade flexibility. One can hope. You shouldn't evaluate a draft after one round any more than you should critique a painting when it's only in the outline stage or judge a porn before the pizza delivery guy shows up. 

That said, it's not unreasonable for Pats fans to be disappointed at this stage. Just as long as it is not Cole Strange that they are disappointed by. Because as I mentioned before, no one was popping champagne when Logan Mankins was drafted "too early" at the end of the first round in 2005. But he turned out to be nothing less than the second best guard in team history, behind only this guy:

And at the risk of overselling a guy who won't play an NFL snap for another five months, as prospects there are a lot of similarities between Strange and Mankins. The people who have watched him play, run him through drills against elite competition at the Senior Bowl, worked him out, and met him, all come away unanimously impressed. 

Let's begin with personnel people from around the league who did evaluations on him:

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Next, the people saw him in Mobile, beginning the guy who runs the Senior Bowl and used to work on Bill Belichick's staff:

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So we're defining our terms here, Perrion Winfrey is considered the most explosive interior pass rusher in his class and Mock Draft Database has him expected to come off the board with the 53rd pick. 

Next, let's check in with the people who've trained with this (Jim Nagy's words) Ass-Kicker:

And while we'll all get to hear from Strange at his first Patriots press conference this afternoon, the interviews I've seen with him all seem to support what @MathBomb says in that above Tweet about his intelligence:

And I'll die before I get out of here without giving the analytics guys their tight-5 on this stage:

How exactly Relative Athletic Score is calculated is beyond a man of my good looks and math skills. But they not only have him ranked the 7th best guard out of the 1,300 they've evaluated, only six players in this entire draft at any position scored higher. Again though, I can't pretend to understand what exactly they're measuring with this. But I do understand this number:

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That's in FIVE SEASONS as a starter for the Moccasins. One sack. And not all those games were against Wofford and Mercer:

My point being, let's not just assume we didn't get a tremendous prospect in all this. Yes, I wanted defense. I still do. And we can all acknowledge that guard is the NFL draft's version of getting winter clothes for Christmas instead of the newest phone or gaming system. It's very useful and practical and you have to have good ones. But it's not what you ran down the stairs at 5 a.m. for. Hopefully Rounds 2 & 3 go the way we want to tonight. But we did get a potential cornerstone player in Cole Strange. 

Mac Jones co-signs: