After trading out of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected safety Kyle Dugger 37th overall out of Lenoir-Rhyne.
In the first post-Tom Brady draft, the New England Patriots went defensive with their initial selection of the event and took Kyle Dugger 37th overall out of Lenoir-Rhyne — which is a Division II school.
It goes to show how much the Patriots like this young safety, considering the Patriots could have drafted a highly-ranked defensive back in the second round from a bigger school if they’d wanted to. Dugger was the only Division II player to be invited to the Senior Bowl this year.
Dugger dominated in the Division II Southern Atlantic Conference. He earned the Cliff Harris Award in 2019 — awarded to the best defensive player in a small school — and played in the 2020 Senior Bowl, where he made his presence known to NFL scouts.
Although he primarily played safety during the Senior Bowl, scouts learned that Dugger has the capability of being a versatile and hybrid player in the NFL.
At 6’1 and just shy of 220 pounds, Dugger has the skills to play both defensive back positions, linebacker in the right formation, and specialist in the return game — which is a specific quality that Bill Belichick values greatly in football players.
While at Lenoir-Rhyne, Dugger finished his college career with 237 tackles, 36 pass deflections, 10 interceptions, six forced fumbles, and six fumble recoveries in 42 games played. He led all safeties by having a 42” vertical leap, was second among all safeties with a 134” broad jump, and also ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.49 seconds at the NFL Combine.
Once drafted, Dugger mentioned that he had been in contact with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick multiple times throughout the months leading up to the draft, according to The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride.
It’s also worth mentioning that Dugger brought a lot of attention to Lenoir-Rhyne, which in turn brought in over 90 scouts to the college campus last fall.
After the selection, New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel, Nick Caserio, shared a few thoughts he had on why they chose to target an under-the-radar safety in the second round, via McBride:
"“Explosive player. Tough, fast, smart. He has some four-down-type elements. We really liked this kid, so we picked him.”"
The Patriots are hoping that Dugger is going to find himself on the field early in his career. He has the skills to become the newest punt returner and make his name known on special teams.
It’ll be great to see what the Patriots’ intentions are with Dugger this season, but it’s going to also be great to have a player like him who could realistically play safety and corner in the same game for the Pats.
With both Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung on the edge of retirement, the New England Patriots have started preparing for the future by selecting Kyle Dugger with their first pick of the draft.