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2020 NFL draft: How does Kyle Dugger fit the Patriots defense?

Related: Patriots select Kyle Dugger with the 37th pick

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have elected to stand pat with the 37th overall pick and have selected Lenoir-Rhyne defensive back Kyle Dugger. Dugger was one of eight players I listed as a potential target for the Patriots with the pick. Before you call Belichick crazy or stupid for drafting a defensive back out of a school you probably never heard of until today, Dugger was projected to be a 2nd round selection by the media.

After lighting up the competition level for three years, Dugger won the Cliff Harris award for the small school Defensive Player of the Year and received an invite to the Senior Bowl. With the opportunity to showcase his talents against prospects from elite programs, Dugger put together a strong week. That’s likely where the Patriots’ interest could have started from, as Belichick spent a lot of time talking with Dugger in the pre-draft process according to Doug Kyed. Dugger crushed the combine, measuring in with the longest arms and wingspans for his position before putting up these jaw-dropping drill results: 4.49 40-yard dash, 42” vertical leap, and 11’2” standing broad jump. The college production combined with the elite athleticism was enough for the Patriots to pull the trigger on him in the second round.

As a rookie, Dugger will likely be the team’s third or fourth option at the safety position as Devin McCourty’s primary backup while being a major player on special teams. He offers the speed to be on the team’s coverage units, field goal block unit, and serve as the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner. In college, Dugger returned six punts for touchdowns. He’ll learn how to play in the system from McCourty before ultimately replacing him in a year or two.

Dugger has the versatility to play a deep safety role or even slide down into the box, which will allow the Patriots to be more creative with their coverages. He’ll need to improve his play recognition and reading the quarterback to figure out his intentions, but that’s something that will come with experience. He has the size, length, and athleticism to play man coverage against tight ends, an area the Patriots have been vulnerable to the past couple years.

With the Patriots’ top two safeties turning 33 in August, the team certainly needs to find a replacement sooner rather than later. Dugger gives the Patriots a potential small school find who can be an impact player on all three downs on defense as well as the kicking game. They tried to get that type of player four years ago with the Cyrus Jones selection, but perhaps they’ll have better luck this time around.


How would you grade the Patriots drafting Kyle Dugger?

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