Cole Strange of Tennessee-Chattanooga runs through drills during practice for the Senior Bowl on Feb. 2. Butch Dill/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots made a move to replenish their offensive line, selecting guard Cole Strange with the 29th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-5, 307-pounder was a five-year starter at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and was selected as a third-team FCS All-American for the Moccasins as a senior this season. He played guard and center in college and could be a candidate to fill some of New England’s voids on the line after it traded right guard Shaq Mason and lost utility offensive lineman Ted Karras in free agency.

Patience paid off for New England last year when it opted not to trade up during a quarterback-rich draft and still ended up getting its top target in Mac Jones.

This year the Patriots were part of a flurry of first-round trades, dealing the 21st overall pick to Kansas City in exchange for the 29th pick, a third-round pick (94th overall) and fourth-round pick (121st overall). This marked the 18th straight draft that New England has made at least one draft-day trade.

Injecting youth and speed into a defense that has been skewing older at linebacker was a focus for New England entering the draft. That was underscored by the decisions to release Kyle Van Noy and not re-sign veterans Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins

The Patriots also are in need of depth in the secondary after letting cornerback J.C. Jackson leave during free agency.

New England has at least one pick in every round to help replenish its roster, including two picks each in the third and fourth rounds, and three picks in the sixth round. The Patriots begin Friday with one pick each in the second and third rounds.

Strange projects as a starting guard for the Patriots, though many mock drafts had him going in either the third or fourth round, but Belichick and the team’s scouting department felt confident enough to select him in the first round.

As a redshirt freshman, Strange started six of 10 games played at left guard. He played 11 games at left guard the following year, and was namded second-team all-league. Strange was named all-league the following two seasons as well. Coaches also voted him first-team all-conference for his play in 11 starts at left guard in 2021.


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