For NFL prospects, playing at a small school can bring its share of difficulties because there isn’t as much exposure as there is at bigger schools. But if a player is talented enough, scouts will most likely find him at some point.
That was the case for Chattanooga offensive guard Cole Strange. Chattanooga is an FCS school, but the Mocs play one FBS school each season. In 2021, Chattanooga’s game at Kentucky caught the attention of some scouts.
Chattanooga played Kentucky close, losing 28-23, but Strange was able to put on an impressive display against an SEC school. After the Kentucky game, Strange was told that his draft stock greatly improved. Strange explained NFL teams use two different scouting services, BLESTO and National Football Scouting. He was told that his draft projection had improved according to BLESTO.
“At the beginning of the season my draft grade was considered a late seventh-round pick, most likely an undrafted free agent,” Strange said on Glenn Clark Radio April 15. “He said that I had jumped up to the fourth-, fifth-round range.”
Strange, a 6-foot-6, 301-pound interior offensive lineman, is from Knoxville, Tenn., and was a two-star prospect out of high school, according to 247Sports. At Chattanooga, Strange started 44 games across five years (mostly at guard) and was a three-time All-Southern Conference performer. Last season, Strange started all 11 games and was a part of an offensive line that helped the Mocs average 205.5 rushing yards per game. As a result of his strong career and senior season, Strange received an invite to the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Strange impressed at the Senior Bowl and Combine and is considered one of the top interior offensive linemen available in the 2022 NFL Draft. During the Senior Bowl, Strange showed off his versatility, playing guard and center. Strange also displayed his power and explosiveness at the Combine with 31 reps on the bench press, which was tied for the second most among all offensive linemen. Strange was tops among offensive linemen in the broad jump (120 inches).
“I played a little center and tackle, but I played mostly guard,” Strange said of his time at the Senior Bowl. “It’s a positive because teams know that I can play guard but since there’s talk of me playing center, I played center at the Senior Bowl. It’s a huge benefit for me. It’s one of things that makes teams more interested because I can play both.”
While at Chattanooga, Strange had a chance to learn from another player who would eventually be drafted. When Strange was a freshman, Corey Levin was a senior guard attracting media coverage. Levin was drafted in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans in 2017 and has bounced around to a few other teams since then. But last season, Levin was signed again to the Titans’ practice squad and even had a bit of playing time in the regular season.
“I looked up to him in the sense that like we’re in the same situation,” Strange said. “He’s getting this media buzz, he’s had a great career at Chattanooga, he’s probably getting drafted and he ended up getting drafted.”
Now Strange hopes to be the next Chattanooga offensive lineman to be drafted. Strange is regarded as one of the top interior offensive lineman in the draft and different media outlets have Strange being selected in various rounds, but he is expected to be selected anywhere from the third to fifth round.
One of the teams that could certainly be in on Strange is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens may look to bolster their offensive line, and Strange’s versatility to play multiple positions could make him an intriguing pick. Since the Ravens have such a run-heavy offense, Strange was asked if he would like to join a team that has offensive linemen push up the field rather than drop back a ton. He had a simple two-word response:
It will only be a matter of time to see where Strange gets selected. The NFL Draft begins next on Thursday, April 28 and ends on Saturday, April 30.
For more from Strange, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Laura O’Dell/GoMocs.com