Ryan Poles promised one thing from the moment he took over as the new Chicago Bears GM. He was going to do everything in his power to fix the offensive line. Hardly a surprise coming from a man who played the position. The tricky part will be finding the right players to fulfill that vow. Something this organization has struggled to do over the past several years. It may require a bit of luck to make it happen.
That includes landing a contributor from later on in the upcoming draft. Don’t be surprised when Poles looks to do exactly that. One thing the Kansas City Chiefs often did during his time with the organization was scooping up blockers they felt might be overlooked in the later rounds. Last year this process paid off when they landed Trey Smith in the 6th round. He was excellent for them at right guard.
So who might Poles have in mind this year for the Bears?
One name that jumps out right away, at least from a comparison’s sake, is Cole Strange. The young blocker built a reputation for dominance during his time at Tennessee-Chattanooga, often overwhelming defenders despite being somewhat undersized at 285 lbs. Draft experts see a surprisingly strong player mixed with good intelligence and athleticism. Bleacher Report even made a comparison that stands out for one key reason.
“Overall, Strange has the frame, athletic ability, play strength and competitive toughness to be considered a high-level backup at multiple positions across the line, with starter potential over his first few seasons at guard. He will need refinement to handle himself in isolated situations as a pass protector in the NFL and to learn how to more efficiently win back leverage as a run-blocker, but he has shown that he can dominate FCS competition, and his power and tenacity translated against a major bump up in competition against Kentucky.”
GRADE: 7.0 (High-Level Backup/Potential Starter – 3rd Round)
PRO COMPARISON: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif”
For those who don’t know, Duvernay-Tardif was a 6th round pick of the Chiefs back in 2014. He started 57 games for them and was a big part of their 2019 championship team. Poles was a key member of the scouting department when that pick happened. It isn’t hard to imagine he’d see the similarities between Duvernay-Tardif and Strange. Not to mention the obvious fit for the Bears’ zone-blocking system under Luke Getsy.
Impossible to watch Cole Strange’s @GoMocsFB tape and not love how he strains & finishes. Got after people same way all week in Mobile. Heard from numerous NFL scouts he was one of their best interviews too. Every team is looking for ass-kickers and there aren’t enough of them. pic.twitter.com/KykkvVYjDu
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 14, 2022
Small-school prospects who rise to the occasion at @seniorbowl are generally biggest risers and @GoMocsFB OL Cole Strange did that against potential first-rounders like OU’s Perrion Winfrey. #NFL teams we’ve spoken with project Strange as Day 1 starter.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/iDvck1oYpg
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 14, 2022
He’s started exactly 1 million games already for Chattanooga but left guard Cole Strange did damn good against Kentucky this year
I would imagine we see him at an all star game this winter pic.twitter.com/JGNYCCx5fn
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) October 20, 2021
Getsy may also urge Ryan Poles to draft Strange
The comparison gets even better. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com was intrigued by the FCS standout. He saw shades of another quality blocker when watching the tape—that of J.C. Tretter. Getsy worked with the longtime center when they were both with the Green Bay Packers in 2016. Tretter has since become one of the most consistent starters in the league for the Cleveland Browns.
More than anything, Strange embodies what Ryan Poles wants in his blockers. Tough, intelligent, and violent. Don’t be fooled by the modest size. The guy loved getting after it on every single snap and wasn’t afraid to talk trash either. He’s said to have done it often during his week-long stay at the Senior Bowl. While he likely won’t be an option early in the draft, the odds are favorable the Bears will have him circled for Day 3.
Don’t be surprised if the Bears double down up front.
Remember they have two starters that are free agents in Sam Mustipher and James Daniels. There is also the probability that Poles might not be as sold on Teven Jenkins or Larry Borom as potential starters. Revamping the protection of Justin Fields is crucial and may require multiple picks to help fix.
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