Patriots: 3 defensive rookies who will make huge impacts in 2020

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3. Kyle Dugger

Kyle Dugger is in a great position to be the starting hybrid safety in a season without Patrick Chung.

Dugger, who was New England’s top draft choice in the 2020 draft, went unnoticed by many of the higher-ups in the NFL with the main and only reason he attended Division II school Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Considering the aging secondary featuring Chung and the McCourty twins, this is a pick that will prepare the Patriots for the future.

It’s worth mentioning that Dugger was the only Division II player to be invited to the 2020 Senior Bowl. And rightfully so, as he earned the Cliff Harris Award in 2019, which is given to the best defensive player in a small school.

Dugger  proved at the Senior bowl that he has the skills and capabilities to be a versatile defender, whether he’s stacked in the box ready to stop the run or ready to drop back in coverage and break up passes.

He earned an invitation to the NFL Combine and ran a 4.49-second 40-yard, led all safeties with a 42” vertical leap, and ranked second in the position group with a 134” broad jump.

According to the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride , Dugger mentioned how he had been in contact with coach Belichick on multiple occasions leading up to the draft. After he Dugger was selected, Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio expressed why the team chose to target an under-the-radar safety as their top choice.

"“He held his own relative to the competition, which is something you want to see, especially with a player coming from a lower level of competition. There’s not that many Division II players playing in the NFL. When you see a player go from Division II, his level of performance, to get into an environment like that where the competition is certainly better than what he faced, you like to see that they’re actually able to hold their own and be competitive. So that was certainly something that worked in his favor,” Caserio told Nick Goss of NBC Sports"

Dugger finished his 42-game collegiate career with 237 tackles, 36 pass deflections, 10 interceptions, six forced fumbles, and six fumble recoveries. He will look to continue and excel in the Patriots secondary.