Chattanooga has sent six players to the NFL Draft since 2000. Coincidentally, their most recent representative was guard Corey Levin in the 2017 class. But who is the Mocs’ highest-drafted player in school history? The San Francisco 49ers selected wide receiver Terrell Owens at No. 89 in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Yes, that T.O. With his scouting report, OL Cole Strange could challenge Owens as the highest-drafted player to come out of Chattanooga.
Cole Strange NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Guard/Center
- School: Chattanooga
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’4 3/8″
- Weight: 307 pounds
- Wingspan: 80 1/8″
- Arm: 33 1/8″
- Hand: 10 1/8″
Cole Strange Scouting Report
Strange is a six-year player and five-year starter for Chattanooga, so he will be a little bit of an older prospect (24 in July). Nevertheless, that is a little less important for the interior of the offensive line. In fact, it should mean he is more physically pro-ready for the NFL.
The level of competition will always come up for prospects coming from lower-division programs. However, what you want to see from those prospects is sheer dominance against their lower-level foes, and Strange displayed just that. Additionally, he played well against Javon Kinlaw and South Carolina in 2018, Kentucky in 2021, and at the Senior Bowl.
There will be growing pains as there is a lot of room for improvement from a technical standpoint, but NFL coaching will bring the best out of Strange. At 6’4″ and 307 pounds, he is a bit lighter, and it showed in some reps against larger opponents. Regardless, Strange shined at the Combine, ranking in the 90th percentile in the 40-yard dash (5.03), bench press (31 reps), broad jump (10″), three-cone (7.44), and 20-yard shuttle (4.5).
Due to his movement skills and lack of mass, Strange best projects in a zone-blocking scheme. Franchises who incorporate such a system can maximize Strange’s strengths while minimizing his weaknesses. The Chattanooga guard should hear his name called on Day 2 of the NFL Draft (top 100) due to his performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine.
Where Strange wins
Let’s begin Strange’s scouting report with his two most obvious traits: athleticism and savage demeanor. I detailed the Chattanooga OL’s Combine numbers above, but they also are visible on tape. Strange explodes into defenders on jump sets and in the run game. He can climb to the second level, move laterally in a hurry, and is fluid in space. This is seen in the screen game and on pulls where Strange has to lead block on the move.
Strange plays with stellar pad level and knee bend. He owns functional mobility in his hips, knees, and ankles. Defenders struggle to get off blocks due to his deadening grip strength. Quick feet allow Strange to recover his base and reset his leverage even after giving up some ground.
Speaking of, Strange never gives up on a rep, no matter where he is compared to the action. He can be on the backside of a quick throw and will give the same effort as the lead blocker on a rushing play. The Mocs prospect plays to and through the whistle, giving defenders more than they ask for. That mentality led to some penalties, but it’s also what captivates OL coaches.
Strange works to keep his hands inside and his feet active. In pass protection, he showcased solid full arm extensions as well as a violent one-arm shoulder punch to throw defenders off. His pop on contact is aided by his ability to bend and gain leverage. Strange gets into pass sets swiftly and mirrors rushers with his feet.
Run-blocking prowess and versatility
Strange is competent in pass protection, but he thrives as a run blocker. His core and grip strength causes issues for even larger defensive tackles. He rolls his hips to lift defenders and holds them close in a phone booth, offering his running backs more space to operate. Strange’s anchor is stout, and he can seal edges in the ground game.
He redirects opponents with his short-area quickness and lateral agility. Moreover, Strange showcased sought-after flexibility throughout his lower body — ankle flexion, knee bend, and low hip stance. He translates to a zone scheme due to his understanding of angles, overall athleticism, and grip/core strength.
Although he has tackle experience, Strange likely won’t sniff the position in the NFL unless multiple players go down with injury. Nevertheless, he proved he could snap toward the end of his collegiate career and at the Senior Bowl. At the all-star event, Strange reportedly crushed interviews and had impressive reps in 1-on-1s against UConn’s Travis Jones, Houston’s Logan Hall, and Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey.
Areas for improvement
However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Strange at the Senior Bowl. He took notable losses against both Jones and Hall. But there will undoubtedly be a transition period for the Chattanooga star. After all, he was playing FCS competition at practice and in games for six years.
Strange has a lean body type for an NFL guard, and although his athleticism will help him make up for it, he stands to gain some muscle mass in the league. He can get moved back and shoved aside against bigger, stronger defensive tackles simply due to his size. He struggles with bull rushes push-pull moves from hulking DTs. Although his technique driving defenders in the ground game was stellar, that won’t be Strange’s game at the next level.
In pass protection, he is susceptible to leaning too much, opening swim-move lanes. At times, Strange overextended, forcing his head to dip and losing leverage. Furthermore, he can deploy too wide of a base, giving opponents an avenue to move him off balance. He can bite on stutters, causing slippery edges. Strange also occasionally locks onto targets too quickly, leaving holes for blitzers. His hands need some refinement, as re-fitting is an issue, and they linger too long.
Strange can be hesitant, lunge, and overpursue when pulling or moving upfield, generating whiffs. Lastly, too often, he is seemingly a tick late after the snap. While the rest of the line is in motion, Strange is still in his stance. On his tape, it didn’t lead to negative plays. Yet, that difference could lead to rushers gaining the upper hand in the NFL.
Strange’s Player Profile
Strange’s road-grader mentality stems from his high school days on the defensive side of the ball. While he was an honor roll student off the field, on it, Strange dominated as a linebacker/defensive end. Fresh off his first season as a team captain and all-district player, Strange committed to Chattanooga in the summer prior to his senior season.
Once again a team captain for Farragut Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, Strange helped lead the Admirals to a 10-2 record, their first 10-win season since 2009. He finished the year with 103.5 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and 5 batted passes. As a result, Strange earned all-district and all-state recognition as well as KIL Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite his high school success, Strange left Farragut as a two-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals. Still, he had scholarship offers from ETSU, Western Carolina, and UT Martin on the table. But a visit to Air Force was enough to steal him from Chattanooga, as Strange de-committed from the Mocs and signed a letter of intent with the Falcons in February 2016.
Yet, nothing is ever simple, and during that summer, Strange pivoted and enrolled at Chattanooga. Speaking on his decision, he stated, “I talked to my family. I realized that my dad and grandparents were getting older, and I wanted to be closer to my family. I wanted to be able to come back home more often. Chattanooga just won their third conference championship. I loved the area and the coaching staff.”
Strange’s career at Chattanooga
Making the one-hour and 40 minute-ish trip from Knoxville to Chattanooga, Strange quickly moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. However, he broke his wrist lifting weights and redshirted his first year. In 2017, he slotted in at right tackle but moved to left guard midseason due to poor play from the starter. From then on, the Mocs’ LG spot had Strange’s name tattooed into it.
He started every game in 2018 and 2019 (including six quarters at center to end the year), earning second-team all-conference nods for his play. In a COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Strange started four of five games, once again receiving second-team all-conference honors. Yet, he won the Jacobs Blocking Award for top OL in the league.
For all his previous success, 2021 would be Strange’s national coming-out party. Starting nine contests at LG and two at LT, he acquired a coveted Senior Bowl invite, the Jacobs Blocking Award, first-team all-conference, and was part of a line that allowed a school-record 9 sacks.
Strange may have dominated on the gridiron, but he didn’t slack off in the classroom. He graduated with a Psychology degree in December 2020, making the Dean’s list every year since he stepped on campus. Not only does it highlight Strange’s intelligence but also his dedication both on and off the field.
What they’re saying about Strange
“He has that true old-school offensive lineman mindset. You get lined up, and it doesn’t make a crap who’s on the other side of you. You just go get after it and go get it done. That’s him, and it’s with everything he does.” — Chattanooga head coach Rusty Wright
“Cole Strange is somebody that I think all those outside zone teams are going to love. He can really move. He started 44 games. Only one of them was at center, but then he goes to the Senior Bowl and played center all week and was really competitive.” — NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah
Strange’s NFL Draft ascension
This is a bit of a common comp for Strange, but it fits well: JC Tretter. Tretter starred at left tackle for Cornell before the Packers selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Due to his smaller stature, Green Bay moved him inside to center where he’s thrived since 2015.
Tretter was a bit more refined coming out and possessed better balance and coordination than Strange. Yet, he faced the same strength and level of competition concerns.
- Tretter (2013 Combine): 6’4″, 307 pounds, 33 3/8″ arms, 5.09 40-yard dash, 29.5″ vertical, 9’1″ broad, 7.48 three-cone, 29 bench reps
- Strange (2022 Combine): 6’4 3/8″, 307 pounds, 33 1/8″ arms, 5.03 40-yard dash, 28″ vertical, 10″ broad, 7.44 three-cone, 31 bench reps
Most of Strange’s negatives revolve around technique and some muscle mass. Those are things NFL coaching, meal plans, and workout regimens can theoretically correct if he remains disciplined. If that’s the case, Strange can be a long-term starter on the interior of an offensive line. That’s more than worthy of a Day 2 pick come April.
A couple of teams reportedly doing their due diligence on Strange are the Ravens and Seahawks. During Senior Bowl week, both franchises “spent a lot of time” with the Chattanooga prospect. Strange is a better fit schematically for Seattle, but it’s easy to see why Baltimore is also interested in the mauling lineman. Wherever Strange lands, he will look to make an impact from Day 1.