NFL insider: Teams were ‘lurking’ on Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton if Patriots passed on them

Mike Giardi of NFL Network reports teams behind the Patriots were eyeing both Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Cole Strange Patriots
Cole Strange. AP Photo/Butch Dill
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The intrigue around the Patriots’ first two draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft — Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton — hasn’t cooled down since New England selected them last weekend.

If anything, the attempts to understand why New England reached for both players seemingly multiple rounds above their projected draft status have intensified since the team took Strange No. 29 overall and traded up for Thornton at No. 50, taking him ahead of receivers like Alex Pierce, Skyy Moore, and George Pickens.

NFL Network’s Mike Giardi suggests Bill Belichick and his staff’s insistence that neither player would’ve lasted much longer on the board might have been well-founded.


“On Cole Strange, I’ve learned, per source, there was a team in the 40s that had their eyes on Strange,” Giardi tweeted. “Would they have traded up had he began Day 2 still on the board? That part is unclear. Strange definitely was getting picked in round 2 regardless.”

Some teams, like the Los Angeles Rams, did homework on Strange as a possible third or fourth-round pick, adding fuel to the fire that the Patriots way over-drafted him.

However, it’s notable that several teams picking in the top 40 — the Vikings, Buccaneers and Seahawks — had Strange in for top-30 prospect visits before the draft.

Interestingly, the Bucs, who took defensive tackle Logan Hall with the 33rd pick, took tackle Luke Goedeke later in the second round. The Vikings, who grabbed safety Lewis Cine just after the Patriots picked Strange and also took cornerback Andrew Booth early in the second round, took offensive guard Ed Ingram later in the second as well.

Take this for what you will: Strange was a more highly graded player on than either Goedeke or Ingram. Though we don’t know what the teams’ grades for them are, it’s conceivable the Patriots were right about Strange not lasting long (putting aside the actual value of the pick).


The Thornton pick feels harder to figure out.

Most projections suggested Thornton would still be around on Day 3 of the draft, leading to shock when he was selected ahead of seemingly better receiver prospects on Day 2.

But Giardi’s report casts doubt on that as well.

“And while we’re at it, on the Tyquan Thornton pick, league source believes there was a team lurking on the Baylor WR and perhaps a fear from the Patriots that the Steelers (at 52) were ready to pounce. So they move up 4 spots and get the speed merchant,” he wrote.

One theory: the Steelers, who grabbed Pickens at No. 52 overall, thought another team (including the Patriots) might take the Georgia product instead and had Thornton in mind as a backup option. Whether the Steelers, Colts or Chiefs, who all took receivers shortly after the Patriots got Thornton, would’ve actually taken him over the prospects they got is debatable, though.

Thornton has tremendous upside due to his superior speed and could well become a prospect on par, if not better, than those taken after him. But if that doesn’t happen, the comparisons between Thornton and the receivers taken after him could dog Belichick for the rest of his career.


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