Is it really shocking that a member of the Patriots' roster would be considered widely underappreciated?
The answer is no. No, it's not.
New England has historically had several impressive players fall under the radar, primarily because they weren't the flashiest nor ended the season with the best statistics at the position league-wide. But they were always consistent and thrived in the New England system, which has always been an aspect that the media and fans of the other 31 teams liked not to acknowledge.
Now the team finds itself in the same situation with a team filled with quality talent overlooked by those outside New England. So much so, NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund wrote about some of the most underappreciated players in the AFC which included a standout Patriots defender.
It may be surprising to some, but Frelund chose Kyle Dugger from the Patriots' current team, and it's difficult to disagree with her.
Sure, Patriots fans love Dugger and enjoy rooting for him on the field. However, the rest of the league fails to realize the pure talent that the young defensive back possesses and brings to the team on game day.
"Computer vision shows that Dugger ranked third among safeties in burst on run plays when aligned within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage in 2022. PFF's grade for Dugger in run defense is in alignment with that metric; he was one of only six safeties to post a grade of 75 or better against the run (76.7) and in coverage (78.3). His overall defensive grade (78.4) ranked 11th at the position."
Despite an overwhelming amount of skepticism when Belichick chose to draft a player from Lenoir-Rhyne in 2020, Dugger has outperformed all expectations in the three seasons since.
Over the last two seasons, he's emerged as an integral part of the defense whose presence is greatly missed when absent, and he's ascending to an important veteran role that will be key in the first season since Devin McCourty announced his retirement.
Dugger's versatility allows him to be used anywhere in the secondary, and his skills continue progressing the more time he's given in games. He impressed during the 2022 season amidst a memorable Patriots' defensive performance, totaling 78 combined tackles, five tackles for a loss, four QB hits, and eight passes defended.
But the most impressive about his season? He nabbed three interceptions returned for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, one fumble recovery returned for 59 yards and a touchdown.
If he can continue on the path he's shown over the last three seasons, Dugger can become one of the most vital pieces of an ascending Patriots' defense.
He's set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2023 season, making just $2.7 million this upcoming year. However, he could earn an extended and hefty contract with another standout performance, hopefully in New England.