For the New England Patriots, the 2020 NFL draft got underway in the defensive backfield.
The war room called Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger’s name in the second round at No. 37 overall Friday night after trading out of the first.
As for what the Division-II standout will bring to New England, here are three factors to take into the equation.
Checking the athletic boxes
Dugger, at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, tested among the top safeties at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. His 40-yard dash of 4.49 seconds ranked behind only Utah’s Terrell Burgess, Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn, Clemson’s Tanner Muse and Louisiana Tech’s L’Jarius Sneed. As for Dugger’s 42-inch vertical and 11-foot-2 broad jump, those marks placed first and second, respectively, at the position.
His frame and explosiveness project towards a box-safety role with a head start on special teams. Dugger turned six career punt returns into touchdowns at Lenoir-Rhyne.
Injection of youth on veteran depth chart
Dugger will enter a Patriots safety room led by Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, who both will turn 33 in August and are under contract through the 2021 season. New England’s top pick this April is a candidate to be third-in-command following last month’s trade of Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions and the subsequent addition of former Los Angeles Charger Adrian Phillips. But it is a long-term outlook for Dugger.
New England hadn’t invested a draft selection in a safety prospect since Stanford’s Jordan Richards in 2015. That area proved to be a wild card worth addressing.
Dugger became a starter during his senior year at Georgia’s Whitewater High School, and accepted his college offer from Lenoir-Rhyne. The no-star recruit would go on to start all 42 games he appeared in for the Bears after redshirting his freshman year and taking a medical redshirt in 2016 due to a meniscus injury. A finger injury would end Dugger’s final college campaign after seven contests.
But the Senior Bowl invite amassed 237 tackles, six forced fumbles, 10 interceptions and 36 passes defensed during his tenure. Dugger secured first-team All-South Atlantic Conference honors three times. He finished as a first-team All-American and the 2019 recipient of the Cliff Harris Award.
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