Cole Strange has what it takes to become a long-term starter for the New York Jets
A couple of months ago, a buddy of mine, Matt (ZazzyJets on Twitter), told me to check out a guard at Chattanooga by the name of Cole Strange. I hadn’t seen a lot of Mocs football in 2021 but I dug out a few clips to see what Strange had to offer.
It was enough to convince me I needed to see more.
I reached out to the staff at Chattanooga to get some video and they were good enough to send it over. I needed to see if the eye test matched the statistics.
Statistically, Strange was one of the most dominant linemen in the FCS last season. He earned an overall grade of 86.3 at Pro Football Focus, the best among FCS guards.
Over four years and 582 pass-blocking snaps in college, Strange allowed a single sack and 13 pressures. That’s a pressure allowed every 44.7 pass-blocking snaps. His pass-blocking efficiency (via Pro Football Focus) was 99.0 in 2021. I don’t need to tell you that number is elite (the maximum PBE is 100.0).
For all his excellence in the passing game, he made the biggest jump in the run game in 2021 combining more power with his natural athleticism. If your system requires guards with good athleticism, good lateral agility, and an ability to block on the move, you’re going to be interested in Strange.
This is exactly why I’m interested in Strange for the New York Jets.
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 31, 2022
Strange spent the vast majority of his college career as a left guard. He played 1,044 snaps at LG, 160 snaps at LT, and nine snaps at RT.
However, the Jets coaching staff had him working as a center at the Senior Bowl in Mobile Alabama, and he’s turned a few heads. He hasn’t won all of his one-on-one matchups – I don’t think any lineman has – but he’s shown that he belongs at the level of his FBS competition.
One of the games I requested was the Kentucky game from 2021. I wanted to see how Strange performed against SEC competition. It was arguably the best game of his career. He not only held his own, but he put a dominant performance on tape. In that game, he allowed zero sacks and just one pressure over a season-high 38 pass-blocking snaps.
Chattanooga may have lost that game 28-23 but they put 339 yards of offense (including 171 on the ground) on an SEC opponent and ran them close. It was the game that made me a firm believer in Strange.
Cole went through a stretch of five games as a senior where he didn’t allow a single pressure and his pass-blocking efficiency was at a perfect 100.0. When you have an NFL-level talent at the FBS level, they need to dominate. Strange dominated. Giving up five total pressures over an entire season as a senior is domination.
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We keep hearing that the Jets value positional flexibility in their offensive lineman. If Strange can prove that he is able to man that center spot, then that increases his value.
In one of his first snaps at the center position at the Senior Bowl, he exploded off the ball, popped a defensive lineman with his hands, and then anchored down to keep the QB clean. It was an A+ rep that showed his talent.
It’s also worth noting that Strange weighed in at 304 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He carries his weight so well that he looks slight in comparison to other linemen.
New York’s Connor McGovern is around 305 pounds. There were some questions around Strange’s weight, but those have been answered.
So, after watching a fair few games over his career and charting the drills at the Senior Bowl, here’s where I’m at with Strange in terms of his scouting report.
Athleticism: Outstanding lateral and horizontal movement skills, finds work and moves to the second level with ease. Short-area quickness is a positive and his reach block on the move is perfectly suited for a zone system. Shows good flexibility in the open field.
Competitiveness: No danger of Cole taking any plays off, has a finish to his game and a nastiness that is controlled but aggressive. Plays to the whistle and motor is always running hot. I didn’t chart a single play where I thought he wasn’t going 100%.
Balance: Ideal balance with weight distribution across the frame. His slide and movement is controlled but aggressive. Rarely gets put on his heels.
Anchor: It may not be as consistent as you’ll see from some first-round linemen, but Strange has a good anchor and gets the bend and plant to absorb power without giving up ground. He can do it, but the goal in his development is to do it more consistently and not get pushed back.
Power: No concerns with the power output from Strange. He has a firm initial pop in the passing game and a good leg drive in the running game. Bigger powerful bull-rushing defensive tackles may give him some issues at the NFL level, but he has NFL-ready power.
Hands: One of my favourite areas of Strange is his ability to give some pop with the hands. Re-setting hands if the initial punch is ineffective is an area to focus on at the next level.
Run Game: Huge improvement in this area over the last 12 months. Shows the combination of power, awareness and body control that you want to see. Shows a clear understanding of the run concepts and executed them consistently at a high level. Plus awareness and plus body-positioning make him a valuable run blocker.
For me, Cole has NFL starting guard talent and his work at center is intriguing as he absolutely has the build and style to make it work at that position.
At the moment, Strange is being spoken about in the fourth-to-fifth-round range but I could see him going in the third round to a team that values positional flexibility and runs a zone dominant scheme.
Strange can come in and provide immediate depth across the three interior line positions, but would be ready to play in a starting role come year two in my opinion. I’m a believer in Cole and think the Jets would be wise to bring him on board come draft weekend.
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